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This Family Business Has Thrived for 64 Years by Selling Old-School Products Popular With Nostalgia Lovers–and the Amish

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Editor’s note: This tour of small businesses across the country highlights the imagination, diversity, and resilience of American enterprise.

Galen Lehman will take on anyone with his scythe. “I can cut grass fast or faster than a weed eater,” he says. Furthermore, after that grass is shorn, his electric-tool wielding opponent will be left with ears ringing and the stench of burnt oil clinging to his skin. Not Lehman. “I won’t smell like petrochemicals,” he says. “And my ears will have been filled with birdsong and the gentle swish, swish, swish of my scythe.”

Lehman’s, a family business in the small farming community of Kidron, Ohio, harks back to the days when a product’s bells and whistles were actual bells and whistles. In 1955, while the rest of the country swooned over newfangled inventions like wireless TV remotes and  microwave ovens, Jay Lehman started selling all things non-electrical to the local Amish population. Over the next six decades, others discovered the business, says Galen, who is Jay’s son and the CEO. (Jay’s daughter, Glenda Lehman Ervin, is vice president of marketing.) Today, gardeners, environmentalists, preppers, homesteaders, and the chronically nostalgic flock to this 120-employee business for their cook stoves and canning jars, candle-making supplies, and composting toilets.

Galen Lehman, CEO of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

What those populations share is the desire for a simpler life. Simple doesn’t mean easy, Galen explains: “It is not simpler to light an oil lamp than it is to flip on a light switch.” At Lehman’s, simpler means closer to nature. It means labor performed with your hands. It means understanding how products work just by looking at them. Often it means working alongside neighbors: easing one another’s loads.

Those values are cherished by the Amish, who still account for 20 percent of retail sales. The company also wholesales some products, like gas refrigerators, into Amish communities. In addition, about 250 of Lehman’s roughly 1,600 vendors are Amish. “Now we are buying more from Amish manufacturers than we are selling to the Amish,” says Jay Lehman, 90, who remained active in the business until a few months ago.

As more tourists and other outsiders (known as “English” in the Amish community) have descended on the store, most of Lehman’s Amish customers have retreated to the company’s second, smaller location in nearby Mount Hope. “The outsiders are sometimes a little invasive with their cameras and their questions and even just staring,” says Galen.

The Lehmans, who are Mennonite, embrace technology for their company: using high-tech to sell low-tech, as they like to say. E-commerce comprises half of sales, and the business is active on social media. But walk in the store on a given day and you might see a wood carver fashioning country scenes for display in the buggy barn or wander into a yoga class that incorporates goats.

Hank Rossiter, a retired nurse who lives nearby, has been buying sprinkling cans, kerosene lamps, axes, wood splitters, kitchen gear, and many other goods at Lehman’s for decades. Trying to give up plastics, he and his wife Marilyn recently went there to pick up some stainless steel drinking straws, and the tiny brushes to clean them. “I may think, how can I simplify this? How can I reduce my carbon footprint?” Rossiter says. “I’m pretty sure Lehman’s will have the answer.”

What would the Amish do?

Jay Lehman was born and raised in Kidron, a farm kid who plowed and planted, then worked as a mechanic in the local garage. In 1955, the owner of the local hardware store was retiring, and he got loans to take it over. For the first few years he had to pay rent on the building, so he drove a school bus while his father looked after the store.

Jay Lehman, founder of Lehman’s.Angelo Merendino

The previous owner had carried a large stock of goods for the Amish, and Jay decided to stick with that strategy. In the evenings, he roamed around the countryside in a pickup truck delivering purchases too large to fit in his customers’ buggies. “I would do it until the houses had no more lights in them,” says Jay. “Then I knew it was time to go home.”

The business grew slowly. Then, in 1961, Jay moved to Africa, where he arranged travel for missionaries. A period in New York doing similar work followed. His brother, David, ran the store until Jay’s return in the mid-’70s. The oil crisis was in full swing, “and everyone was panicking,” says Jay. “They said, what do we do? Well, what do the Amish do? They get along without these things. If the Amish can do this, we can do it too.” Sales soared.

Then a magazine called Organic Gardening published a laudatory article about the Victoria Strainer, a product sold by Lehman’s for separating out seeds from applesauce and tomatoes. Orders poured in from around the country; and the new customers wanted to know what else Lehman’s sold. The company mailed out product brochures and a catalog that by century’s end would reach more than a million customers and eventually earn Lehman’s a place in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

During the 1980s and ’90s, nostalgia largely drove new sales “People in their 60s and 70s wanted to do things the way they remembered when they were younger,” Galen says. Eventually, the rosy glow of a cherished past gave way to the dark clouds of an uncertain future. Lehman’s next big surge occurred in the late 1990s. Y2K fears stoked the Prepper movement, and even non-survivalists stocked up on lanterns, water filters, and kerosene cookers. Subsequent end-time panics–the end of the Mayan calendar, the blood moon prophecies–sparked mini-booms.

Angelo Merendino

But recently the Preppers have grown less important to Lehman’s. Galen is OK with that. “We don’t think being prepared means hunkering down and arming yourself against the zombie apocalypse or whatever is out to get you,” he says. “Being prepared is being ready with supplies that can help you and your neighbors and your family.”

Looking for the last big thing

For a business that regards “new and improved” as an oxymoron, sourcing can be a challenge. The non-electric market has been shrinking since the store’s earliest days, causing manufacturers to shut down or switch product lines. As a result, the Lehmans have sometimes scrambled for new suppliers, sourcing kerosene cook stoves from South America and gas refrigerators from Sweden, for example. The large majority of products, however, remain American-made.

The company has occasionally acquired expiring product lines, like apple peelers from the once-mighty Reading Hardware Company. In 2015, Lehman’s took over the struggling 108-year-old Aladdin Lamp Company, whose kerosene models incorporate a mantel over the wick to produce an unusually bright, hot light.

Occasionally, Galen designs products himself. Working in Lehman’s R&D facility–a corner of the store with some plywood benches and hammers–he recreated the Daisy butter churn, which had been out of production since midcentury. “It’s a pretty good replication of the original with some improvements,” he says. “It churns faster because of changes I made to the paddle.” He has also produced a hand-cranked grain mill out of cast aluminum rather than cast iron, which allowed him to cut the price in half.

Angelo Merendino

The store’s Amish-made products are extensive, ranging from rocking chairs and cherry baskets to whisk brooms and croquet sets. Amish manufacturers suit Lehman’s because they operate on a small scale and so don’t require huge minimum orders. The flip side is they typically can’t or won’t ramp up volume when demand for something unexpectedly surges. “A lot of times they will say, ‘I can’t make your product because it is time to make hay or I need to plant the fields,'” Galen says.

Wherever they’re sourced, many products arrive without instruction manuals or other documentation. As a staff resource, the company maintains a library of old books on subjects like canning and butchering. Galen has bolstered that knowledge by interviewing people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s about the finer points of operating old-style tools and devices. Working with an employee he created training programs for the company’s main product lines. Employees certified in the operation of oil lamps, water pumps, and other devices receive a bump in pay.

While the company’s nostalgia-driven demand is, by law of nature, declining, Lehman’s is enjoying both more and new business from other sources. The Amish population is growing both in the United States and around the world. And those notoriously screen-addicted Millennials have been surprisingly receptive to the company’s message of living simply and well.

“You talk to people who work in technology,” Galen says. “They go home, and more than anything else, they want to get some dirt under their fingernails.”

Leigh BuchananEditor-at-large, Inc. magazine

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Peter instills in us that doing things a different way can be the right way. Your own way. He walks the line of family business and business being his family flipping traditional business models upside down. While some would caution never to mix the two, he has by putting “place first” creating an environment that is welcoming to all those who are lucky enough to find this hidden gem of a restaurant – 2017 Restaurant of the year in Portland, OR – HAN OAK. With special thanks to core the TEDxPortland organizing team, 70+ volunteers and cherished partners – without you this experience would not be possible. Our event history can be found TEDxPortland.com In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized. Peter’s restaurant, the Korean-inspired Han Oak, was Portland Monthly’s 2017 restaurant of the year. Inside its walls unfurls a world rooted in both tradition and fresh interpretations on authentic cuisines. Peter cut his teeth in New York for 13 years in the kitchen of Michelin star chef April Bloomfield before his desire to be closer to his family called him to the Rose City. In 2017, he was recognized by Food & Wine as best new chef and is currently nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef Northwest. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

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My Parents’ Endless Rows Have Left Me Angry & Depressed

You are still carrying the scars from your upbringing, says Mariella Frostrup. Now your focus should be on yourself and how not to repeat the behaviours of your parents.

The dilemma I’m 22 years old and for as long as I can remember my parents have constantly had arguments in which they would be abusive to one another – mostly verbally, occasionally physically. As a teenager I struggled with my sexuality and coming out, and I had depression until I got treatment at university. Home didn’t provide respite and the constant rows made it worse.

I’d often get involved to try and make them stop, whereas my brother would retreat into his room to escape. In general, I’m happy, however I feel my ability to deal with conflict is damaged. I’m very passive and feel the need to please people. I worry about repeating these patterns when I have my own relationship. My brother also has mental health issues. Whenever I come home, they still argue and it never seems to improve. I feel angry at how selfish they were bringing up children through that, and I used to wish they’d get divorced, for all of our happiness. If I can’t change this, then what else can I do?

Mariella replies First, pity them. That’s three whole decades of dysfunctional partnership they’ve battled though. I appreciate that the reason you’ve written is to seek advice on how to escape the burden you continue to bear. It may sound over-optimistic, but shrugging off personal responsibility and learning from your parents’ mistakes rather than inheriting their predilection for pain are both entirely achievable goals.

Imagine how many missives I receive about bad parenting. As I said recently, I could quote Philip Larkin into next century and he’d still be the perennially appropriate choice. When it comes to parenting there are not only amateurs out there, but truly committed purveyors of discord with not a thought for those navigating the turbulent waters left in their stormy wake. The best you can hope for is that you can survive and thrive once you are liberated by honing your ability to learn from their flaws.

I used to elaborate on my damaged childhood until I heard stories that made my own experiences seem like kindergarten politics. It goes without saying that if the physical abuse was sustained or recurs, or the mental anguish continues to wreak havoc on either parent, then you must think about professional intervention.

The big mistake we all make is assuming that “professional” parents exist, that our experience is substantially different or that an idyllic segue from dependence into independence is a reasonable expectation. You and your sibling may well need to augment your coping skills as a result of your experiences. Your insecurities about coming out and your brother’s struggle with mental health issues are very likely to be connected (for help, refer him to Mind or the charity Family Lives on 0808 800 2222).

True emotional freedom is only possible once you banish any sense of culpability for your parents’ behavioural shortcomings and allow yourself the emotional space to become a distant and dispassionate observer. You can’t erase the damage they’ve already done, but you can certainly come to understand the emotional triggers that their warring created and manage them like you would any dysfunctional tendencies of your own.

The sins of our parents may seem as inescapable as our own, but I’ve never accepted the notion that what you are born into, or are subjected to in childhood should forever shape your experience of the world. We are all individuals with a unique opportunity to shape our lives as we desire, so learning from damage, rather than simply shouldering the burden, is incredibly important. Personal responsibility is something we don’t talk about enough in our blame-seeking society, as I’ve learned through travels to places where the hardships we experience still look like luxury.

Your letter provides further proof, however unnecessary, that the environment we are brought up in can have serious implications on how we go about our adult lives. It’s a responsibility that no budding parent can possibly imagine when the product of their physical passion turns into a living, breathing, vulnerable, judgmental human being.

As children we are dependent on our parents in a way we never will be again. We rely entirely on them to feed and clothe us, to love us, guide us, help us and hide us. What’s harder to imagine and certainly worth bearing in mind is that they are never perfect and often far from it.

Ponder on all the years they’ve squandered in a state of perpetual strife and then endeavour to ensure that you don’t repeat their behavioural patterns or let the legacy continue to impact on you in the way it has historically. It’s a tall order, but with focus and determination there’s very little we can’t overcome.

You might also want to copy them in on your beautifully articulate letter, or indeed this whole column, to ensure they know exactly what the toll of their indulgent skirmishes has been. If the damage is already done, you’ve nothing to lose.

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If you have a dilemma, send a brief email to mariella.frostrup@observer.co.uk.

Follow her on Twitter @mariellaf1

 

 

Source: My parents’ endless rows have left me angry and depressed | Mariella Frostrup | Life and style | The Guardian

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Source: 50 Ways To Live On Your Own Terms – Benjamin Hardy – Pocket

2019: Taking Responsibility, Taking Flight! — land Undefined

In this post, I am piggybacking off of my last entry where someone left a comment that has left me thinking. I was writing from a place of pain, sharing my deepest heartache of having to let go and walk away from my family. I went back into the fire recently and was burned badly […]

via 2019: Taking Responsibility, Taking Flight! — land Undefined

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Read more: https://www.outsideonline.com/2322006/hiking-white-mountains

 

 

 

 

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I Don’t Really See Any Value in Saying, I Told You So, Prince Charles on His Climate-Change Fight, Life with Camilla, and Becoming King – James Reginato

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Anyone of my age knows that days pass at a far greater speed than when they were young,” a man nearing his 70th birthday recently told me. “But in my case there are so many things that need to be done.”“Things that need to be done” takes on a strikingly different quality if you are on the verge of ascending the British throne. Past the age at which many people retire, Charles Philip Arthur George, the Prince of Wales, is still waiting to begin the job he’s been in line for since he was three years old………

Read more: https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/11/prince-charles-becoming-king-camilla-british-monarchy

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New Documentary To Show How Far People Go For Financial Independence – Tom Anderson

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Scott Rieckens has the zeal of a convert. The 35-year-old first heard about the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement in February 2017. Now he is finishing a documentary, Playing With FIRE, which follows his frugal journey from beachy Coronado, Calif., to affordable Bend, Ore., with his wife, Taylor, and their 2-year-old daughter. Along the way, Rieckens, a former creative director and partner in a video production company, sought the advice of other extreme savers who have left their day jobs in their 30s or 40s to spend the rest of their lives pursuing exciting work and leisure…..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomanderson/2018/10/17/playing-with-fire-scott-rieckens/#41a78e6d7edc

 

 

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Life Strategies – Designing Your Greatest Life 300+ Pieces of High Quality and Diverse Health Content

Shaping your life is a process that follows many principles, but ultimately, it is about taking the time to discover what you believe at your core and what you really want to achieve in life, then designing a plan to help you reach all your dreams. Life design strategy enables you to recognize your weaknesses and build from your strengths to form a foundation for a well-designed life that is purposefully crafted. When you start down this journey of shaping your life into the form of your greatest contentment, you’ll enjoy personal fulfillment and joy along with immeasurable accomplishments…….

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Take a deep breath. You’re doing amazing and if you doubt that just read these positive self affirmations to boost your esteem. You doubt your life. You feel miserable some days. This means you’re still open to growth. This means you can be objective and self-aware. The best people go home at the end of the day and think: “or… maybe there’s another way……

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How a Working-Class Couple Amassed a Priceless Art Collection – Mag

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Herb Vogel never earned more than $23,000 a year. Born and raised in Harlem, Vogel worked for the post office in Manhattan. He spent nearly 50 years living in a 450-square-foot one-bedroom apartment with his wife, Dorothy, a reference librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. They lived frugally. They didn’t travel. They ate TV dinners. Aside from a menagerie of pets, Herb and Dorothy had just one indulgence: art. But their passion for collecting turned them into unlikely celebrities, working-class heroes in a world of Manhattan elites…..

Read more: http://mentalfloss.com/article/48844/how-working-class-couple-amassed-priceless-art-collection

 

 

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