Lehman’s Hardware

Lehman’s Hardware is a retail store located in Kidron, Ohio. Originally specializing in products used by the Amish community, it has become known worldwide as a source for non-electric goods. The 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) facility bills itself as a “Low Tech Superstore” and a “Purveyor of Historical Technology,” both of which are reflected in their motto, “Simple Products for a Simpler Life.” The quarter-mile-long structure is made up of the remnants of a log cabin and three pre-Civil War buildings, including a hand-hewn barn.[1] It is also a popular tourist destination. Lehman’s also maintains a smaller, more traditional hardware store in Mount Hope, Ohio, where their Amish customers may shop with less interference from curious tourists. In addition to the two stores, there is also an outlet, catalog and online business.

View of the Lehman’s Hardware campus from the main entrance

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Lehman’s is located in Kidron, Ohio, an unincorporated community in Wayne County, Ohio. It is located in a tri-county area of Northeast Ohio that is home to the nation’s largest population of Amish, some 56,000 in number.[2] Its location made it a natural place from which to do business with the area’s Amish population, and its proximity to U.S. Route 30 has also made it a popular stop among tourists who are visiting Amish Country.

Jay Lehman, an area businessman, founded Lehman’s Hardware (now called “Lehman’s”) in 1955 with the intent of selling non-electrical products to the Amish community. He began the business by purchasing a combination hardware store and gasoline filling station that had been in business since 1915.

The store did a modest business, with a mild boost from tourism, until the 1973 oil crisis. As domestic supplies of oil began to dwindle, people began to look for low-tech equipment to help them deal with the shortages. According to Jay Lehman, “The oil embargo put us on the map.”[3] The oil crisis secured the store’s reputation, with each new disaster or potential disaster bringing in new customers. Other events that increased Lehman’s customer base include the Year 2000 problem, the September 11, 2001, attacks, and the northeast blackout of 2003.”[4][5]

As a result of this change, there has been a marked shift in the demographic makeup of Lehman’s customers. In the early years, the Amish community accounted for 95 percent of Lehman’s sales. Now it makes up between 6 and 8 percent.[6]

Besides the Amish, tourists, and jittery citizens, the store is a resource for homesteaders, missionaries, environmentalists, survivalists, and doctors in developing countries, to purchase items needed for simple living. Lehman’s also counts among its customers the American Red Cross,[7] Peace Corps volunteers, and Hollywood set designers also use the store to find historically accurate items for decorating period sets.

Though now in his eighties, Lehman still serves as chairman of the business and comes to the store every day to interact with customers. The business side is now handled by his son Galen, who started working at the store in his teens and is now its President. Jay Lehman’s daughter, Glenda Lehman Ervin, currently serves as the store’s Vice President of Marketing after working many years at a large corporation.[8]

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