plain looking front hides a major tourist attraction
and a wonderful assortment of merchandise.
Worldwide DIY Council
away in an unincorporated community of 600 in northeastern
Ohio is a multi-million dollar retail hardware operation
with an amazingly huge inventory of non-electric appliances,
stoves, tools and lights which it sells around the
It is Lehman's Hardware, a two-store chain originally
serving the Amish communities surrounding Kidron and
Mt. Hope, Ohio, but now also aggressively selling
by direct mail and the Internet to customers everywhere
as well to thousands of tourists who visit the main
Kidron store regularly.
Amish people believe in simple living without electricity
or other modern innovations, so the store, founded
in 1955, concentrated on finding products to meet
the needs of its Amish customers. Its huge selection
of wood heating and cooking stoves, for example, may
rank as the world's most complete assortment.
In the intervening years, the store discovered thousands
of products, such as hand-powered kitchen appliances,
water pumps, grain grinders, oil lamps and gas refrigerators,
and learned that campers and many other non-Amish
customers would buy these products, too.
it concentrated on finding and stocking non-electric
products primarily for its Amish customers, the company
developed a worldwide reputation as the place to find
these uncommon items, and now makes sales to all 50
states and in over 200 countries around the world.
It is said to be the world's largest seller of historical
With its growing reputation, the store has become
a prime supplier to other customers, such as missionaries
and doctors who work in developing countries, where
electricity is often lacking. Lehman's is able to
supply many products to make life livable in these
huge collection of wood-burning heating and
cooking stoves may be the world's largest?
beams like this,
together with antique memorabilia, draw tourists
from all over.>>>
the main Kidron store consists of several buildings-more
than an acre under roof, including its latest expansion,
the restoration of an 1840's barn as its newest sales
floor addition. The barn was painstakingly dismantled
and transported across the state to be reassembled
as the latest addition to the store. With its huge,
hand-hewn wood beams and wood sideboards, it creates
an historical setting for the pioneer artifacts on
display as well as the merchandise for sale.
it specializes in non-electric products, it also carries
conventional products for the non-Amish trade. Interestingly,
while it searches for and sells non-electric items,
it employs the latest retail technology to operate
its stores efficiently. It is computerized and boasts
an outstanding web site, which helps it create sales
around the world. www.Lehmans.com
The main Kidron store has become a tourist attraction
as well, due in part to national publicity the firm
has received in such publications as Wall Street Journal,
USA Today, Newsweek magazine and the Los Angeles Times
To further appeal to tourists, the store is decorated
with antique tools and other hardware-related items,
ranging from pioneer bicycles to wooden shovels. These
antique items and wood shelving enhance the pioneer
look of the store.
grinders of all sizes for campers as well as
the Amish trade.
Non-electric lamps to
fit any décor.>>>
also now issues a 168-page catalog featuring 1,000
or more items it sources from around the world, which
it describes as "authentic products that work
for life." Virtually all are non-electric, though
it does contain a few electric items. These are organized
into nearly a dozen departments-ranging from personal
care to lighting, water pumps, filters, etc. Circulation
of the catalog reaches nearly a million each year.
the years, the company has improved its catalog and
now identifies new items, locally made items, best
sellers, etc., with easily identifiable symbols to
help customers browse the many items it contains.
It also identifies many of the countries from which
it sources products, such as Sri Lanka, Germany, Slovenia,
etc. While it imports many items, it is not focusing
on Asian-made items.
In addition to serving the local Amish community,
the store also helps the community economically by
using it as a source of many of its non-electric items-items
such as stylish walking sticks, handmade wooden checker
Its main headquarters in Kidron now consists of 3
buildings. The retail area now comprises 30,000 sq.
ft., and is supplemented by a storage and service
center and corporate headquarters. The recently reconstructed
barn nearly doubled its retail floor space.
What is quite surprising is that the company gets
along with only two buyers to source the world. They
travel to trade shows around the world as they continually
seek out non-electric items to add to the store's
ever-growing inventory. The firm buys from hundreds
of suppliers, as well as two full line US hardware
Because it has become a tourist destination, the company
wisely caters to these customers by offering snacks
and drinks and Lehman Hardware-decorated clothing
items and other souvenir-type merchandise.
When the store opened in 1955, it was only 900 sq.
ft. in size and served only the local community. Today
it sells in more than 200 countries, issues a million
catalogs nearly 200 pages in size and draws visitors
from around the world, and is a multi-million retailing