When you place on order with us, the craftsmen who make your furniture are old-order Amish and Mennonite—the Plain people or Plain folk (as they call themselves) of Lancaster County and the surrounding Pennsylvania Dutch country.
The Amish community of Lancaster is the oldest in the U.S., dating back to the mid-1700s. Amish and Mennonite settled here to escape persecution in Europe, finding sanctuary in the American colony that was based on religious freedom when it was founded by William Penn. Amish faith today, as then, stresses fundamental Bible doctrine, inspiring a lifestyle based on humility, family and community, plus an intentional separation from the modern world. All of this is reflected in their plain dress and simple way of life.
Traditional Amish livelihood is based on farming, but as the population has grown and farmland has become more scarce, the Plain folk have turned to cottage industries, such as woodworking. Always a valued skill for a self-sufficient community, furniture making is now a burgeoning industry and a growing means for Amish families to support themselves.
Some of our craftsmen operate large shops with a dozen or more employees—mostly family members and Amish neighbors who have learned the craft. But much of the furniture is made in smaller shops, often a barn or outbuilding converted into a wood shop that is operated by one or two craftsmen. All of the furniture is made from solid kiln-dried hardwood that is hand-selected for quality. Most woodworkers use hand tools and pneumatic machinery powered by diesel generators, solar panels or wind power (most Amish are off the electrical grid). They rely on traditional construction techniques such as mortise and tenon joinery, a method used for thousands of years and still the strongest joint in carpentry.
That's how Amish craftsmen build some of the best quality wood furniture in the world. Yet most Amish, by their nature, would prefer not to tell you why their furniture is so great, and wouldn't care to try and persuade you to buy it. Instead they mostly sell to furniture dealers, such as Plain Folk Furniture, that market their products through furniture stores or online.
Plain Folk Furniture is run by Don and Jamie Beaulieu in Arlington, Virginia. Jamie grew up in Lancaster, which is a short drive away so we visit there frequently. Over time we have learned about the growing number of Amish furniture manufacturers throughout the county and began looking for ways to start a business relationship with them. So we traveled around the county to meet them, and eventually we chose to work with about 15 furniture makers based on quality, style and price. We have visited all their workshops, been introduced to some of their families and petted virtually all of their dogs (who are usually the first ones to greet us). And now we help them sell their furniture.
We've also looked for ways to give back to the community in Lancaster. We donate a portion of our revenue to two local organizations. One is the Clinic for Special Children, which researches rare genetic mutations in the Amish community and provides affordable medical care to children with genetic illnesses. The other is the Sunbeam Center, which serves adults and children from Lancaster's Plain community who have special needs.
When your furniture arrives at your home, look inside the drawers or under the table top and you may see a stamp bearing the name of the wood shop where it was made. But you won't know the names of the craftsmen who put so much attention and care into making it for you. They prefer it that way. However, you'll know that you have a piece of furniture that was made with skills passed down through generations of Amish families—and furniture that will last in your family for generations to come.