Thursday, April 2, 2020

One business that's booming

I got curious the other day, and emailed my contact at Lehman's: Glenda Lehman Ervin, VP of Marketing.

Lehman's, as you no doubt know, is the massive mercantile originally founded to serve the needs of local Amish and Mennonite populations in Ohio. They cater to those living off-grid or rural, with an emphasis on leading customers toward a simpler and more sustainable life. I've been writing for their blog for a couple years now, and twice I've been privileged to visit the store in person.

We - the Lewis family - first learned about Lehman's in the late 90s. We ordered some toys for our girls from their catalog. Later, when Y2K hit, we wanted to order something else and found out they were slammed, just slammed, with customers concerned about the future and anxious to obtain products and supplies to help them weather any potential disruptions.

Remembering this experience, I emailed Glenda and asked, "Just as a matter of interest, have you folks been busy? I can imagine a lot of people are interested in what products you're offering."

I received a heartfelt response as follows: "The store is open but almost empty - but direct sales are through the roof! Shelf-stable food, gardening and prepper supplies (water pumps and wood cook stoves) are very much in demand."

Our emailed conversation continued. "If Lehman's is nothing else, it's virtually recession-proof," I wrote. "When the chips are down, people know old-fashioned products are more important than fancy whiz-bang gizmos."

"Yes, interesting times," Glenda replied. "I am grateful we can keep most of our employees busy."

Glenda then sent additional information, as well as some photos of their massive and busy warehouse, as follows:

"As an essential business selling shelf stable food, emergency supplies and cleaning items, Lehman’s in Kidron is open with reduced hours (10 am to 5 pm). There are very few customers in the store so we have staff shipping product out for online sales, which are increasing.

The increased demand is coming in two very different areas - in self-sufficiency supplies, such as canned meat, wood cook stoves, water pumps - and in gardening and food preservation products. We also see a dramatic increase in what we are calling comfort products. For example, last March we sold about 20 puzzles. This March we have sold over 130. There is also an increase in 'how to' books, toys and games, and baking items.

Our store events for March and April were cancelled or postponed (like the visit from 'Off Grid with Doug and Stacy') and we will decide soon on May events.

One of our biggest challenges is getting product from vendors. Some have ramped up production, but others cannot keep up.

You can also review this blog for more information, as well as visit our web site.

In summary, our mission for decades is to help people to be prepared, not scared. We have the resources to help in times of need, and a big part of that is providing information. We are hearing from people who have no knowledge of self-reliance (city folks, as we call them) so we are spending hours on the phone, explaining things like how to install a water pump or when to plant your garden. We are also sending emails, posting blogs and doing social posts that are helpful and comforting.

Happy to talk on the phone if you need more information."

I'm not kidding, folks, Lehman's is the best resource I can think of for self-sufficiency information and products. When I visited the store last November and was given a tour, one of the things I learned was how much Lehman's emphasizes education -- not just for its customers, but for its staff. The training its sales staff receives in their particular areas of specialty is amazing.

It's good to see, once again, Lehman's rising to the occasion during this pandemic.


  1. I do like their stuff and have bought from them in the past. Looking through one of their latest catalogues a while back, I was sad to see how many of the items were made in China though.
    Perhaps they will rethink that moving forward?

  2. Dear Anonymous - I'm sorry you were disappointed with the amount of product we have from China. I am too! The problem is that we have no choice. If we want to offer a full line of product, we have to include Chinese product, because there is so little made here any longer. I can tell you this: If we know of a USA made version, we carry it. I challenge you to find anything in our store that is made in China but has a good source from an American factory. If you find it, I will carry it.

    Here are some areas where we have problems: Cast iron (yes, we carry USA-made Lodge cookware), tools, stainless steel and glass. For example, when was the last time you saw a stainless steel USA made teakettle. (For me, it's 1970.) We have American made glass from the last family owned commercial glass factory in the USA. But the rest comes from you know where. It's a sad situation.