When you mention the Amish, Lancaster County Pennsylvania might come to mind; however, you don’t have to travel that far to visit an Amish community because there are many Amish living nearby, in the southentier of western New York. Known for their skilled craftsmanship, many Amish make a living selling quilts, furniture, cabinets, clocks, wooden items, and baked goods from shops beside their homes.
To appreciate why the Amish live like they do, it’s helpful to understand their background. My daughter and I recently went on an Amish Flair Tour with Carol Lorenc of the Foxe Farmhouse Bed & Breakfast in Cherry Creek.
We met Carol at The Depot, a unique gift shop located in Cherry Creek’s 1896 railroad depot. Patty Frost, proprietor of the shop and an expert on the local Amish community, told us a bit of history on how the Amish religion began. We learned that the three most important things to the Amish are faith, family and community. Their religion is based on being humble; that’s why they dress alike, so they don’t stand out.
The community located in the Cherry Creek/Leon area, which began in 1949 when several families arrived here from Ohio, is mainly Old Order Amish, who live life at a slower pace than the rest of the world. They live without electricity, indoor plumbing and other modern conveniences; they also travel in horse-drawn buggies.
Carol took us on a driving tour of the area, including stops at several shops. One stop was at Levi and Elizabeth Wengerd’s quilt shop on Dredge Road, stocked with many beautiful quilts, pillows, wall hangings and rugs made by the women of the family. Elizabeth explained that since they don’t have the distractions of modern life, their handiwork is also their form of entertainment and socialization.
We also stopped at Dan Raber’s shop on Pope Road, which is filled with all sorts of wooden toys and kitchen items. A diesel engine below the shop runs all the woodworking equipment. Carol noted that they can make just about anything out of wood if you bring them a picture.
Carol’s tour concluded with a three-course tea at the circa 1864 Cherry Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast, served by innkeeper, Sharon Howe Sweeting.
Paul and Sue Fisher of Randolph in Cattaraugus County also offer tours of Amish country. Their two and a half hour Delightfully Country Amish Tours take you to Amish shops just north of Randolph. Their tours are “step-on,” which means that you do the driving in your own vehicle and the guide rides along.
The Fishers run their tours, by reservation, year-round, Monday-Saturday. Starting times for the tours are flexible, but they generally take place at 9:30, 12:30 and 3:30 May-Oct. and 10 am and 2pm Nov.-April. You can also tour Amish country on your own; pick up maps at either the Cattaraugus or Chautauqua Visitors Bureaus. However, keep these things in mind when touring the area. First, Amish shops are never open on Sunday. Second, there are no gas stations nearby, so fill the tank before you go. Next, they do not accept credit cards, only cash or checks and finally, do not take photos of the Amish, as it is against their beliefs.
Besides the Amish shops and the previous mentioned Depot, Rustic Creations on Main Street in Cherry Creek, has nature themed gifts and home décor items. In South Dayton, Candy Apple Mercantile has unique country gift items. There are also a few small shops in Randolph.
When hunger strikes, good choices are the Trillium Lodge in Cherry Creek, The Mustard Seed, in South Dayton, or Oregano’s Family Restaurant in Randolph.
If you go
Cattaraugus County Tourism (1-800-331-0543; www.enchantedmountains.info) 303 Court St., Little Valley. Contact them for maps of the location of Amish shops. Maps can also be obtained from the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau (1-800-242-4569; www.tourchautauqua.com ) Main Gate at the Chautauqua Institution.
Amish Flair Tours (Carol Lorenc) Foxe Farm Bed and Breakfast, (877-468-5523, 716-962-3412; www.foxefarmhouse.com) 1880 Thornton Rd., Cherry Creek. Tours by reservation.
Delightfully Country Amish Tours Paul and Sue Fisher (716-358-9730) Randolph, NY. These 2 ½ hour tours of Amish country are offer year-round, Mon.-Sat. by reservation.
Randolph area information (716-358-9701, www.discoverrandolph.com)
Cherry Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast (296-5105, www.cherrycreekinn.net) 1022 West Rd., Cherry Creek
Take the New York State Thruway (I-90) west to Hamburg (exit 57) and follow Route 75 south to Route 62 south, which you will travel on for about 15-20 miles. To head to South Dayton and Cherry Creek, turn right on Route 322, which runs through South Dayton. For Cherry Creek, continue on Route 322 and turn left on Route 83 and travel about 10 miles. To go to Randolph, follow Route 62 to Route 241 south to Randolph. Amish shops are located along and near Route 62 in Leon and Conewango, as well as north of Randolph. Look for the signs pointing to the various shops.