A Change of Pace

By Corinne Minard

Taking-a-crate-of-chickens-to-the-farmDriving east on state Route 32 is like entering another world. Within 40 minutes, the view changes from gas stations and restaurants to the trees, fields and hills of eastern Ohio. The journey also leads to a plethora of old world shopping. Welcome to Amish Country.

The Amish of Adams County began as a farming community of seven families in the 1970s, but quickly started merchant, industry and services businesses as well. The Wheat Ridge community now consists of more than 100 households and continues to grow while preserving their processes and methods.

“Most people come up to the Amish community to get away from Cincinnati, to drive out in the country,” says Tom Cross, executive director of the Adams County Travel & Visitors Bureau.

“I think it’s the quaintness of it all,” says Cross. “It’s the horse and buggies. Slower pace of life out there. It’s like the life your great great grandparents had.”

The Keim Family Market is often the first Amish store people see because of its location on Route 32. Roy Keim started the business 20 years ago by selling his wife’s pies on the same road. The business has grown into one that sells breads, cakes, pastries, deli meats and cheeses, spices, candy, snacks and jellies.

They’ve also expanded into woodworking, selling indoor and outdoor furniture. Their handmade play sets and gazebos are easily seen from the road. The variety of shapes, sizes and colors of the gazebos alone makes driving by a spectacular site.

It’s a drive to the next Amish store because of the culture of Adams County Amish.

“Here, it’s individual families and farms that have their own little shops and things,” says Levi Grooms, assistant innkeeper of the Murphin Ridge Inn, noting how different the Amish are here from those in Holmes County.

Because the stores and shops are more spread out, there are often wonderful sites to see while traveling between stores.

A trip down Graces Run Road to the Wheat Ridge community crosses the Harshaville Covered Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge used in Adams County. Built circa 1855, it’s most famous for having Morgan’s Raiders cross it during the Civil War without burning it down afterwards. Its historical renovation was finished in July, showing that the county believes the “gateway to Amish Country” is an artifact worth preserving.

Cross says, “It’s the same bridge. Over the years [it] went through some upgrades, but it’s the old historic Harsahville Covered Bridge.”

Traveling down Wheat Ridge Road leads to another Adams County staple: Miller’s Furniture, Bakery & Bulk Foods. Opened in 1977 as a bakery by Harry and Lydia Miller, Miller’s now consists of three large stores and is still run by the Miller family.

“It’s been going, I guess they just did a good job at baking. [They had] lots of repeat customers,” says Daniel Miller, owner of the furniture store, about the business his parents started. “And we kept adding things to it.”

It can feel like it’s the warehouse store of the Amish because of the variety of merchandise in one place. As one travels from building to building, Miller’s makes it simple to purchase handcrafted picnic tables, zucchini bread and bulk baking supplies without going back to the car.

The furniture store alone covers 34,000 square feet, easily making Miller’s the largest Amish business in the area.

“Our furniture line is just a little different than most furniture stores because it is solid wood, [so] it should last for a long time,” says Miller. “That’s what people are looking for and that’s why it does good.”

Their Quarter-Sawn White Oak furniture is particularly popular because of its unique grain. “I had lots of customers that really weren’t looking for furniture, but when they’ve seen that line of wood with the cherry finish on it, they had to have it,” says Miller.

The sheer amount of wooden cabinets, freshly baked pies and homemade jellies to look through can easily make a trip to Adams County last more than a day. Fortunately, the county is the home of the Murphin Ridge Inn. Included in the select registry of inns, the inn offers contemporary comforts in the middle of Amish Country.

The inn boasts 10 hotel-style guest rooms and nine standalone cabins. “Most [people] do come here for privacy and to celebrate one another for birthdays, anniversaries or little getaways,” Grooms says.

They do allow kids, especially during the summertime. The inn is an opportunity for families to get away from the hurriedness of everyday life and just enjoy time hanging out in the country.

The relaxed atmosphere and pastoral setting add to the comfortable feel. “We try to treat all of our guests like family. It’s a small staff, a small, sort of family-run operation,” says Grooms.

Reservations for the weekends should be booked a few weeks in advance, but the inn’s full-service restaurant is open to visitors. “We have kept up and competed with the downtown Cincinnati restaurant scene as far as having innovative cuisine that is all made fresh and made-to-order,” says Grooms.

The inn makes as much as it can from scratch. They grow their own herbs and vegetables on the property while eggs are delivered fresh from a local farm.

Cross recommends that visitors take the time to explore Adams County and the variety of attractions the state has to offer. Sites like the Serpent Mound, the largest serpent effigy mound in the United States; the Olde Wayside Inn, Ohio’s oldest standing inn still in use; and the Adams County Quilt Barn Trail are just some of the other places worth visiting in Adams County.

For Cross, a highlight of any trip to the Amish is the view itself. He says, “[You] get up on Wheat Ridge and it’s just beautiful. There’s one of the high points in the county [there] and you can see across and you can see the mountains of the county [and it’s] just kind of like a wave of them going out there.” It doesn’t hurt that this amazing view is paired with a much more relaxed way of life.