An Amish Family that Wears Two Hats

Sam and I sat at his dining room table talking about the beginnings of Riehl’s Quilts and Crafts. Sam was being careful not to get too "braggy" about the thousands of visitors (and tour buses) that have visited the shop, looked around the farm, and observed a little of Amish life. I began to wonder how Sam and Susie ever get all their work done!

In the beginning, the Riehls decided to earn a living by dairy farming, just like many other Amish couples. (They currently have 35 Holstein dairy cows, along with eight horses and mules.) While they were doing the farming, Susie's mom was selling quilts out of her basement.

Susie and Sam had lived with her for 12 years, and Susie continued to insist that she’d never have a quilt shop. But they started having second thoughts as they kept seeing motorcoaches go by their farm. Milk prices being what they were, the couple decided that a quilt shop just might be a good supplemental income for the farm, a small side business that meant they could both stay on the farm rather than work away from it.

So they started selling quilts and quillows out of one room in the house in 1993. Cars and busloads of visitors began to arrive. The big surprise was that the store was so successful that they quickly ran out of room for both quilts and shoppers. Pretty soon there were five rooms devoted to the store. At this point, they were about to run out of a place to sleep in their own home!

Thus, the decision was made in 1998 to build a 2,400 square foot store next to the house that would provide all the space they would need. The lovely building you see now is filled to the rafters with all kinds of quilts, quilted items and many other handcrafts from over 75 local families. Sam says that now they could double the business, but he wants to keep the whole operation “family size.” Still, it’s sometimes as much of a challenge to rein in the business as it is his mules.

Sam and Susie have worked together establishing the shop from the beginning, and have now raised six children, three of whom are involved in some aspect of the business. (By the way, Susie's mom still makes quilts for the shop.) They carry only locally made quilts (no imports), and are happy to accept custom orders. I asked Sam how they can tell a good quality product when women bring them quilts to sell. “Susie checks each one and can tell by the way the stitches look if it’s good enough quality for our store”

For an heirloom that will last for generations, this is the place to find it. They always have at least 200 quilts in stock, plus the ever-popular quillows, potholders, handbags, wall hangings, birdhouses, candles, cookbooks, locally made jams and jellies, and much more.

Of course, you can't run a successful business like this if you don't enjoy meeting people. They both enjoy talking to the folks from all over the world who come to the farm, and have even made friends with some of them. Visitors can go and see the cows in the barn after they shop in the store. It’s fun to observe people and how they react to the Amish way of life. They sometimes tell Sam that even though it's so beautiful and peaceful there, they are happy to go home to their modern world. Sam says he feels that way too when he travels, except he enjoys going back to his simpler life.

It's not unusual to see visitors checking out the family buggy, trying to pet the calves, stopping Sam as he takes a team of horses out to the field, or asking Susie questions about quilts. Sam seems to have endless energy, and patience. He said it is a daily juggling act to get all the work done, but "I have the ultimate job security and no one can lay me off!"

Before leaving, I stopped outside to talk to one of the visitors there. Wearing his straw hat, Sam passed me on his way from the shop to the milking barn and jokingly shouted, “I’m putting on my other hat now!"

The shop is open Monday through Saturday, is handicap accessible, and Visa, Mastercard and Discover are accepted. For a truly special experience, be sure you to stop by the farm, visit the shop, and have a "Riehl good time."



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