Shopping the Backroads in Lancaster County, PA
Lancaster, Pennsylvania has long been a tourist destination for day trippers and weekenders. Busloads of them. They clog the highways as traffic crawls past little fake shopping villages, Eat-Til-You-Bust restaurants, and chain motels.
So, where is the Lancaster that you really wanted to visit? Where are the quaint shops, rolling fields, pretty farmhouses, and the laid back country atmosphere?
Route 322 and on into Main Street Ephrata offers several original, locally owned businesses that give the visitor a real look at the unique beauty of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It's best to make your little tour on a weekday when it's quiet and you'll run into less traffic.
From Mr. Huber's roadside stand to lunch at the Cloisters Restaurant, you'll find original shops and food emporiums, and the honest, wholesome warmth that made Lancaster, Pennsylvania famous.
These stores are my favorite places to start my Christmas shopping, and I can always find some unusual and attractive gifts.
Mr. Huber's Roadside Stand and Shop
Mr. Huber's Roadside Stand and Shop
Rufus Huber's unnamed roadside stand and shop is 4 miles east of Ephrata on Rt. 322. There is no obvious signage, just Mr. Huber's artfully arranged goods. An arbor frames a backdrop of fields. Trees shade the area where you can stroll around in wonder among the wares Mr. Huber has created with architectural salvage. You can also buy pieces of architectural salvage if you want to create your own artistic project.
Handmade benches and beautiful birdhouses of every size with salvaged metal roofs vie for attention among the antique pumps, enamel-ware pots, metal fencing and stars, and hand made garden ornaments.
Inside, find rustic frames made of old barn wood and metal lanterns along with a display of interesting objects and hardware you don't know what they are until Mr. Huber explains with charm and good humor.
Expect the unexpected here.
Things have changed at Hubers' since the recent introduction of interior lights and heat. Mr. Huber is going a bit wacky with new technology but the true feeling of the place remains.
On a recent visit to Mr. Hubers, you may find - a paper market basket filled with coins and a spoon; a flower bed where the flowers grow inside the frame of an actual bed; an old cast iron water pump; and metal wagon wheels.
Mr. and Mrs. Huber themselves provide an atmosphere of pleasant chat and easy laughter. It's one of my favorite places to shop anywhere.
Birdhouses at Mr. Huber's
Dutch Country Soft Pretzels
Dutch Country Soft Pretzels
When I first visited the Pretzel Factory (right next door to Mr. Huber's on Rt 322, 4 miles east of Ephrata) it was a small, funky building with a freezer sitting outside the front door. Costumers squeezed in and chatted while they waited for their delicious soft pretzels. Now, costumers spread out in the new, expanded Dutch Country Soft Pretzel Factory where everything is a bit too shiny for me.
But, the pretzels are still the same. Not the pretzels you buy at the mall or grocery store, but more like rolls - chewy, aromatic, and absolutely delicious.
If you leave a bag of Ike Stoltzfus's warm pretzels in the car, you return to a vehicle that smells like heaven.
Buy fresh pretzels packed in a plain, brown paper bag - so pleasant to munch on as you travel Lancaster County back roads. Or, you can buy frozen pretzels to take home and warm up to share with a suddenly very happy family.
Ike Stoltzfus, proprietor and pretzel-maker extraordinaire, offers regular white pretzels, whole wheat, gluten free, and special order soft pretzels retail or wholesale. The soft pretzels come in long rolls or standard pretzel shape. Ike is up before the birds making the dough fresh every morning in his clean,simple factory. Then, he plays a game or two of checkers with next door early bird, Mr. Huber as the dough rises.
My friend Leola and I had the good fortune to meet Ike and got a tour on a recent visit to the area. He spoke with pride as he showed us how he makes the soft pretzels and runs the business with the help (that day) of his hard working assistant, Grace. Ike's soft pretzel factory is a cheerful, friendly place producing good, wholesome food. There's nothing like fresh, locally produced soft pretzels.
Cornfields, formerly known as Carson's in the Cornfields, is a sprawling gift shop that offers all the folksy ambiance you'd hope to find in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Located just west of Dutch Country Soft Pretzels on the other side of the road at the conjunction of Rte. 322 and Grist Mill Road, Cornfields is loaded with unique items.
Hand painted furniture, antiques, metal stars, folk art, whimsical hardware, braided rugs, and architectural salvage make Cornfields an interesting and unique place to shop. On my last visit I spotted beautiful accent pillows that cost a fraction of similar items I've seen in catalogs. Outside the shop you can find rustic country pieces and architectural salvage. The old metal roofing and building trim, and wooden architectural details are inexpensive and handy additions for do-it-yourself projects.
On the first and second floor, you can find interesting gifts, vintage fabrics, unique decorating accessories, braided rugs, Christmas ornaments, garden ornaments, antique and unusual reproduction hardware, and folk paintings.
Years ago, whole admiring a painted cabinet door, I began to chat with some other customers. We talked about making things, the creative life and how pretty Nancy Carson's things were. After a momentary lull in the conversation, the woman turned to me and said ' you can do that.'
Do what? Paint a landscape onto a chunk of salvaged cabinetry? Of course I could! So, I loaded up with a pile of old, lumpy cabinet doors and taught myself to paint! I often think of those friendly strangers and their encouragement. Just another magic moment along Rte 322!
Ephrata Re-Uzit Shop (In the Name of Christ)
Maybe it sounds flip to call this marvelous place the Jesus Wants You to Buy Used Stuff Shop, but after you've been there, you'll see that I am being totally honest.
The Ephrata Re-Uzit Shop is my all time favorite thrift store. Offering everything from antiques and collectibles to clothing at remarkable prices, the Re-Uzit Shop is the place for bargains and surprises.The shop is divided into specialized areas featuring men's, women's, and children's clothing; crafts and sewing; antiques and collectibles; housewares; gifts; books; frames; office supplies; and unique odds and ends.
The Ephrata Re-Uzit Shop is one of many Mennonite Central Committee Thrift Shops, a US, national chain. MCC works around the globe in education, relief work, job creation and training, peace, and the justice movement. They help people with disabilities, offenders and victims of crime. The Mennonite Central Committee provides valuable assistance without considering race, religion, or political persuasion. Funds obtained from MCC thrift shops aid important projects at the tune of 10 million dollars a year.
Yet another friendly place to shop, Re-Uzit is an example of sustainable living. Unwanted items are recycled locally, eliminating waste and the fuel used in the productions and shipping of goods.
You can shop at Re-Uzit, find a bargain, and help your fellow man as well.
Cephrata Re-Uzit Shop: Where Else Are You Going to Find Beautiful Aprons Like These?
A Classic Independent Diner - Cloister Restaurant
Cloister Restaurant is basically an old fashioned diner that offers regular diner fare as well as Pennsylvania Dutch specialties like dandelion salad in spring, stuffed pig stomach, and pie that even I had trouble finishing. The day we visited the Cloister Restaurant, they featured schnitz und knepp, an often hard to find Pennsylvania Dutch specialty with dried apple slices (schnitz), a bread dumpling (knepp) and a hearty sauce, a meal unto itself.
After a morning of travel and shopping, stop at Cloister Restaurant to rest your bones and enjoy a homemade, affordable meal. The only trouble with Cloister is that once you slide into a cozy booth, you won't want to leave. The front window offers a view of the historic Cloister across the street.
Don't expect a quiet, lonesome meal. The folks at Cloister Restaurant as well as the customers engage you in lively conversation. It's like going to a party! You swivel in your seat to talk to the people behind you. The cooks and management discuss food, food preparation and general life philosophy.
Cloister Restaurant is a restful, relaxing place filled with good cheer and wholesome, delicious, Pennsylvania Dutch goodness.