Brian and Lisa Allan have discovered this since starting a business that markets products crafted by members of the conservative Mennonite sect.
“The phone rings pretty much non-stop,” said Brian Allan. “We’ve had about 6,500 people on the website per month.”
Operating as Rustic Backyard Structures, the Innisfail couple have been displaying Amish-made goods north of town, on the west side of Hwy 2, for the past two years. Their merchandise ranges from gazebos and pergolas to play structures built in imaginative shapes like pirate ships, castles and lighthouses.
“All of the products that we bring in are Amish-made, everything,” said Allan, who deals directly with the Pennsylvania builders.
“I went down six times to Pennsylvania last year. It’s 4,000 kilometres one way.”
Allan noticed Amish-made products being sold in Texas a number of years ago while working as a long-haul trucker. Two years ago, he went to New Holland, Pa., to investigate the possibility of selling in Canada.
The Amish he met were “very eager “ to supply a new dealer.
“I met one who builds my cupolas, and he said, ‘Oh, would you be interested in meeting my brother? He builds gazebos.’ So he sends me around the corner of the street, and he said, ‘Oh, would you be interested in meeting my brother-in-law? He builds sheds.’”
Allan returned to Alberta with a truck full of products, and a dozen more loads have followed since.
The Amish lead simple lives, he said, with plain clothing and few modern conveniences. Homes are heated with fireplaces and lit by candles.
Those who produce products like playhouses for resale do so on a large scale, however, using power tools in the manufacturing process.
“They do it full time, all year long,” said Allan, adding that their commitment to tradition becomes evident when the work day ends.
“4:30 rolls along, and they go home in their horse and buggy — literally.”
Rustic Backyard Structures’ playhouses range in price from about $3,000 to $18,000. Upper-end products include features like hardwood floors, pine interiors, electrical packages and working dormers.
“The children’s expressions when they see this stuff is incredible,” said Allan. “That’s the biggest reward I have for doing this.”
He continues to operate a trucking business, but anticipates continued growth for Rustic Backyard Structures. The business is expanding its product range and might even develop an 18-hole minigolf coursewith Amish-built structures like waterwheels and bridges.
Rustic Backyard Structures has already begun distributing ice tea and ice cream developed by the Amish. Those edible products can be found at the Innisfail Co-op and Allan hopes to supply retailers across Canada.
Rustic Backyard Structures’ website is at http://rusticbackyardstructures.com, with the business’s phone number 403-227-4974.