My name is Susan Hougelman. I live and work in a little town in Western Pennsylvania called New Wilmington. New Wilmington is home to an Old Order Group of Amish called the Byler Settlement. We have the third largest Old World Order Amish group in Pennsylvania, and tenth largest and oldest Amish population in the United States.
You can recognize our Amish by their burnt orange colored buggies. The Amish men wear blue denim trousers and blue cotton shirts. The women wear only shades of blue and purple. The men wear straw hats, and women wear white caps, that they call kapps. Their kapps have sixty pleats in them, with a little bow in the back. Some say they are the prettiest kapps of them all. The Amish women here, wish they weren’t so complicated to make…that’s a lot of pleats!
Most Amish men in New Wilmington are farmers, and woodworkers. The Amish in New Wilmington make beautiful furniture that is shipped all over the world! The Amish here, love the community of New Wilmington, because they can buy and sell most everything from each other. There is an amazing business network that goes on!
I own two businesses in New Wilmington. One is a restaurant, that sells made from scratch, Amish type cuisine, called The Tavern on the Square. Every day somebody would come into my restaurant and ask, “Susan, where can we see the Amish?” But there is not much tourism in New Wilmington. The Amish live and work here, and have little shops, but it has not been marketed to the public, most of their business comes from locals and each other. So, I would tell people to just drive around and look for the Amish. But I am a business woman, and I saw an opportunity! One day, I said to one of my restaurant guests who asked where she could go and see the Amish, “I will take you and show you!” That’s how my Simple Life Amish Tour business got started. BUT, I had a problem. I had never really spoken to an Amish person before and definitely had never been in an Amish shop! The Amish kind of separate themselves from the English, so unless you were a neighbor, or did business with an Amish person, you would really have no reason to converse.
Photo Credit: Jim Fisher
I asked a friend who sells Grass Fed Beef and has many Amish clients, if she would take me around and show me every Amish business in my home town. One Saturday morning, we left at 7:00 am and we counted THIRTY Amish businesses in New Wilmington, that I had no idea existed! I felt like I was discovering a lost city, or secret treasure, that no one else knew about! I picked seven businesses including an Amish farm and greenhouse, a grocery store, a dry goods store, a quilt shop and a furniture maker. I asked those business owners if they would mind if I brought people to see their business, and they all said that they didn’t mind. That was nearly three years ago, and I’ve now conducted over 600 tours in the past three years! I’ve gotten to meet guests from all over the world who are fascinated with the Amish, or just want to learn more about the Amish way of life. New Wilmington is not a tourist destination. What you will find here is real and authentic way of life. If you take my tour, you will get a personal encounter with several Amish families.
I’ve also built very strong and loving relationships with the Amish community, since starting my business. I am often welcomed into their homes for meals, or to play games. I’ve been invited to Amish weddings and school programs. I even went on vacation with an Amish family! The children have become like my very own grandchildren to me. One little Amish girl named Esther, sneaks to an English neighbor’s garage and uses her phone to call me. In the middle of one conversation, she paused and said, “Susy, you are our best friend.”
My business is so fulfilling. I believe that God has chosen me, to bring the love of Jesus Christ to my Amish community. I do not preach to them, but I do shower them with love and kindness. If you are ever in my neck of the woods, please look me up. I would love to take you on a Simple Life Amish Tour and show you the amazing beauty that exists here, and introduce you to my Amish friends….and grandchildren : )
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