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Premier Carriage House Cottage
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The Inn at Honey Run
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Premier Carriage House Cottage
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Premier Carriage House Cottage
After a stressful month of deadlines, special projects and settling into our new office building, I think everyone here at Akron Life & Leisure could have used a break in mid-March. Luckily, a few of us were able to do just that, as we headed down to Amish Country in the name of “work.”
We spent two days exploring parts of Wayne and Holmes counties in order to share our ideas for a great weekend (or midweek) getaway. As you read along, keep in mind that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Amish Country has to offer. In our part of Ohio, several Amish communities exist in Geauga, Stark and Tuscarawas counties, in addition to Wayne and Holmes.
And while buggy rides and homestyle cooking are certainly part of the package (and something everyone should experience at least once), we chose not to focus on those aspects this time. In a way, we’re exposing a side of Amish Country many might not even realize exists.
Our trip began with an early morning visit to P. Graham Dunn’s new Dalton headquarters. The new facilities include a factory and gallery of the stunning, inspirational wood décor P. Graham Dunn is known for.
From the moment you step inside, you’ll be taken aback by the stunning crown molding and grand staircase with a cherry finish that leads up to the gallery. Underneath the staircase, windows allow visitors to watch as machines laser engrave scriptural messages on some of the products. Upstairs, another set of windows line each side of the gallery, overlooking the production process as workers paint and assemble various items.
Although the gallery is a shopper’s paradise—complete with everything from jewelry, lithographs and picture frames to larger home décor items and even high-end furniture—it’s much more than that. As we were told during our tour, “It’s not just a store, not just a gallery; it’s an experience with a history.”
It’s a history that goes back more than 30 years and is centered around family and faith. In 1972, Peter Dunn and his wife LeAnna were on a mission assignment in Staten Island, N.Y., where they were assigned to a home for troubled girls. Peter put a workshop in the basement of the home and discovered that he really enjoyed that part of the ministry. Four years later, the Dunns returned to their Ohio home and Peter began designing and carving plaques from a chicken house on the family farm. At that time, in 1976, a neighbor named Carol Shoup and her cousin Robert Shetler began working with Peter. Today, Robert supervises all areas of production for P. Graham Dunn and also heads the company’s human resources department. Carol (now Carol Curie) continues to work daily in the shipping department, sending orders to customers around the world.
What visitors to P. Graham Dunn take away from their experience varies, says Peter Dunn, company president. But everyone is guaranteed an interactive experience. “We engage the consumer,” he says.
The next stop on our journey was to Shisler’s Cheese House in Orrville. Known as the “Best Little Cheese House in Orrville,” Shisler’s is a great place to pick up goodies for your drive or to take to your overnight destination. And with the store’s nice selection of cheese and crackers, it’s a perfect stop along the way to any of the local wineries.
No cheese is actually made in this shop, but Shisler’s carries a huge selection. One of the best sellers is Pearl Valley Swiss, of which owner Rita says she sells about 1,000 pounds per week. Shisler’s also sells Heggy’s and Coblentz chocolates in addition to nuts, Amish baked goods, honey and so much more. Shisler’s turns 50 in August, and Rita plans throw a “big, blow-out party” in celebration.
If you’re overwhelmed and not sure what to purchase, the samples table at store’s entrance might help you decide. We decided on the fresh pepperoni rolls and some Troyer’s trail bologna to save for later in the trip.
After leaving Shisler’s Cheese House, we headed to the J.M. Smucker Company Store and Café, also in Orrville. The first thing that caught my eye when we walked inside was the rainbow wall of jelly jars in the back of the store. In addition to jellies and jams, the beautifully arranged store also features nooks of products from Smucker’s family of brands including Pillsbury, Jif, Hungry Jack and Eagle Brand.
The eye-catching displays throughout the store are likely to whet your appetite, and for that reason the store features a tasting station complete with samples and recipes. There’s also a custom gift basket station, which might inspire you to put together a tasty gift in time for Mother’s Day.
In the back of the store, we walked through a miniature museum that includes a timeline of the company’s history from the 1897 original apple butter crock to today. The timeline also shows television clips from Johnny Carson, past and present commercials and other fun details, such as the fact that Smucker’s was named one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2004 by Fortune magazine.
Driving southwest from Orrville, we headed to Wooster, where we stopped in at The Cat’s Meow Village, home of the wooden, two-dimensional buildings and accessories designed by artist Faline Jones since 1982. Faline began by creating replicas of local architecture, each featuring her signature along with her famous black cat trademark, Casper. Originally, Faline had 12 designs, which were sold in two local stores. Today, the keepsakes are found in more than 600 retail locations throughout the country. In addition to popular landmarks and buildings, replicas can also be made of individual homes and with personal photographs.
During our visit, we watched a short video narrated by a cartoon Casper. With a bit of history and plenty of cat puns, the video is entertaining and informative for adults and children alike. Next, we toured the “mewseum,” which features interactive displays and a guessing game. The museum includes a cyber-café where children can have fun with computer puzzles and games while Mom shops in the retail store. To end our visit, we were able to screen-print our own Cat’s Meow collectible.
By this point, we’d worked up quite an appetite and decided to stop for lunch at Matsos in downtown Wooster. This friendly neighborhood restaurant serves authentic Greek fare as well as a variety of pastas and pizzas. The restaurant’s walls are covered with framed photographs from the Ohio Light Opera, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer. Restaurant owner Spiro Matsos has been a longtime performer with opera, and exudes enthusiasm about the upcoming season.
After lunch, we checked in at the Wayne County Convention & Visitors Bureau, where Martha Starkey and her staff are always willing to pass along information and recommendations.
Although we didn’t have time during this trip, another site worth checking out in Wooster is Quailcrest Farm. Begun as a perennial nursery in 1975, Quailcrest is now known throughout the state for its herbs, perennials, old roses, flowering shrubs and scented geraniums for the serious and hobby gardener. It’s the perfect destination for gardening information, eclectic shopping and a tour of the relaxing gardens.
Before leaving Wooster, we had one more stop to make: Troutman Vineyards. Opened in 2001 by Deanna and Andy Troutman, who also own The Winery at Wolf Creek, Troutman Vineyards features a unique selection of locally grown wines. The most popular, and my personal favorite, is the Farmers White, a German-style white wine with apricot, apple and peach aromas. After sampling several wines, we couldn’t resist purchasing a few bottles to take back to the Premier Carriage House Cottages in Berlin, where we were staying for the night.
The Premier Carriage House Cottages include six individual cottages that can comfortably fit between four to 10 people each, with average rates ranging from $145-$245 each. Complete with a full kitchen, table, sofa, TVs, stereo, two beds, two bathrooms, Jacuzzi tub and more, theses cottages have all the comforts of home but in the beauty of rural Holmes County. In addition to the indoor amenities, guests also have use of an outdoor pool and hot tub as well as complimentary breakfast served daily from about 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the office just a short walk down the road from the cottages.
Guests have come from as far as England, New Zealand and South Africa to stay at the cottages, which make an ideal setting for a girls’ getaway, a family vacation or a romantic weekend. And the staff will do whatever necessary to ensure guests have an enjoyable stay, whether that means creating custom gift baskets, arranging in-room massages and spa treatments or scheduling activities such as horseback or hot air balloon rides.
For dinner, we drove just a couple miles down the road for dinner at the Inn at Honey Run, another Berlin lodging site. Built 25 years ago with the intent of being a “green” building even before the environmental movement was in vogue, the Inn at Honey Run sits on 70 acres of land between Millersburg and Berlin. Each room has a different décor and includes wildflower, tree and bird identification books as well as a CD of bird songs.
The inn also has a spa, basement lounge and full-service restaurant, all open to the public. The menu changes seasonally, and during our March visit we sampled the lobster saffron ravioli, shrimp and penne pasta, and the salmon entrees. For dessert, we shared the créme brulée and the upside down apple pie. Everything was exquisite, and in my opinion, the food alone is worth the drive down from Akron.
Our visit was on the eve of spring, but apparently Old Man Winter had one more trick up his sleeve. While we were inside filling up on Chef Thomas Hunt’s creations and enjoying pleasant conversation, a blizzard was brewing outside. Our drive back to Premier Carriage House Cottages took twice as much time in the white-out conditions. We arrived back safely, though, and with our tummies full, enjoyed a good night’s sleep.
Thankfully the snow has stopped by morning and we were able to stroll down to the office for waffles and coffee before continuing our trip. Next, we headed to Mount Hope to visit Homestead Furniture, started in 1990 by owner Ernest Hershberger, whose family has an extensive background in woodworking.
Homestead prides itself on selling hand-tooled, solid hardwood furniture that will last a lifetime. We browsed through the three-level showroom and were amazed at the fine craftsmanship of the furniture. Every piece is customizable and once ordered is ready for delivery or pick-up in about six weeks.
It’s worth mentioning that Homestead Furniture is part of The Best of Ohio’s Amish Country, a group that includes Amish Door Village, Coblentz Chocolates, Lehman’s, P. Graham Dunn and Walnut Creek Cheese. While there wasn’t enough time to stop at them all during this trip, I’ve been to each and highly recommend a visit.
Although most of our trip was planned out, we did make one unexpected stop to the Kidron Livestock Auction. Having never been to a livestock auction before, it was quite a shock for me to see the animals paraded around for sale. It was especially difficult knowing that many of the cute farm animals would likely become someone’s next meal, and for that reason, these auctions are not for the faint of heart.
Once we got back on track, we stopped by the Ashery Country Store in Fredericksburg. Owned by Curt and Rhonda Yoder, Ashery markets itself as the “Grandma of the Bulk Food Stores.” With 36 varieties of cheeses, more than 90 spices and an assortment of homemade jams, cereal, baking supplies, bulk candy and more, you’re likely to find all your cooking and baking needs, and at reasonable prices.
After roaming the crowded aisles at Ashery Country Store, it was time to head back to work, but feeling a little more rested and invigorated than before.
For more information about these and other destinations in Ohio’s Amish Country call the local visitors bureau or visit them on the Web.
Wayne County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Holmes County Chamber of Commerce
Tuscarawas County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Stark County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Geauga County Tourism Council