Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Amy Pulver: A Lehman's Summer Celebration

Lehman’s, for those who have never been introduced, is situated two hours south of Cleveland in the town of Kidron, Ohio, and is one of the largest purveyors of nonelectric goods. 
A view of Berlin, Ohio, near Kidron

Their catalog — filled with everything from hand-powered water pumps to sauerkraut stompers, bottled juice to shoulder yolks — is both a history lesson and a glimpse at the staying power of methods and products that have always worked, whether for “homesteaders and environmentalists living in remote areas; people with unreliable electricity . . .; the ‘chronically nostalgic’; . . . [or] Hollywood set designers.

Part of what makes Lehman’s truly special is their deep commitment to providing time-tested solutions that enable lives lived in accordance with personal philosophies. In many ways Lehman’s and Storey are cut from the same cloth, striving to connect people personally to the wisdom and valued tools held by long-time practitioners of country living. Titles such as Carrots Love Tomatoes, Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game, and Root Cellaring are both Storey best sellers and mainstays at Lehman’s. That alignment of purpose and product is one reason these two businesses have worked well together for many years. 

Last month Storey special sales account manager Amy Pulver flew to Kidron to attend the Summer Celebration at Lehman’s retail store. Lehman’s hosts four large seasonal events every year: Spring May Days, Summer Celebration, Fall Harvest, and Old-Fashioned Christmas. The festivities include demonstrations, giveaways, talks, games, and even a petting zoo. 

Amy has generously assembled some highlights of her trip for our blog, and it sounds a little as though it was the magic of the catalog, come to life. Here’s what she had to say.

On first impressions of the town:
On my first morning in Kidron, I gazed out the window, and the view was stunning: The rolling hills, fields of green corn, glimmers of white barns and farm, and the occasional clop-clop of horse hooves, followed by the sight of a two-wheeled black buggy, was enough to make this small-town girl from Western Massachusetts marvel at life in Ohio’s Amish Country.
Downtown Kidron on a Saturday morning

On arrival at Lehman’s:
When I walked in the door, my eyes were instantly drawn upward. The frame for the room I was standing in was a barn from 1847 that had been taken apart and put back together so it stands just as it had a few towns over. It was an impressive sight. 
A part of the book section at Lehman's,
complete with antique library ladder

On the Summer Celebration crowds:
My table was in the book section, where I talked with people many of whom were serious canners and preservers. It was a great location — as the day went on, I talked with locals who had been coming to Lehman’s for years. One gentleman explained that he and his wife made a yearly trip to the area from their home just outside Toronto. I heard more than one person marveling at the wall of cookie cutters, where there are cookie cutters in the shape of every state. 

On family tradition:
The Summer Celebration is a family affair. In addition to founder Jay, son Galen Lehman (president) and daughter Glenda Ervin Lehman (vice president of marketing) were a noted presence during the 2-day event, chatting with customers and friends. The warm welcome I received when I arrived at the store came from Glenda’s son, who was there to help out for the event and represents the third generation of Lehmans carrying on the family legacy. 

On memory and personal connection:
During lulls in foot traffic, I ventured away from the table and explored the store. Lehman’s has many of the same departments that you would find in a typical home & garden or hardware store, but that is where the similarity ends. Where else, for instance, would you find a newly redesigned classic butter churn? I wandered far enough to find the lighting department, where I saw oil lamps of every size and shape imaginable. I own an oil lamp that had been my father’s and my grandmother’s before that. I can remember sitting around the kitchen table as a child during a thunderstorm or snowstorm playing cards by the light of such a lamp. I had never seen so many of them in a store before; they filled an entire room!

We'd like to extend a special thank-you to Lehman’s for the opportunity to participate in their special customer days. There’s nothing more rewarding than connecting with people who know firsthand the pleasure of making and doing things themselves.