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Ohio market flourishing while offering Amish-style products
By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Ohio Correspondent

HAMILTON, Ohio — This is the first year since he was 14 or 15 years old that John Brown hasn’t had corn and soybeans in the field. Instead, John and his wife, Joyce, have opened Brown’s Marketplace - a retail store featuring Amish-made furniture, Amish bulk foods and antiques.

Opening on Oct. 27, the store “has passed our early projections of what we thought we would do,” said the Browns’ daughter, Jody Boyd, who manages the Amish furniture section.

While the Browns still operate their farm market in Ross, farming has gotten tougher, John Brown said. “In the wintertime we didn’t have that source of income once the farming and the farm market shut down. And the labor situation in farming with the migrants is tough.”

A few years back, the Browns decided to open an Amish furniture store in the antique mall in Ross. It did well. They got to know the Amish manufacturers.

“I had this idea of what we have here today, the antiques, the Amish built furniture, the bulk food store all in one huge location,” Brown said. “There’s not another store in the United States like it, I’ve been told.”

The Browns’ interest in the Amish began when their daughters Jody and Jessica attended OSU in Wooster. They went sight-seeing in nearby Holmes County, the largest Amish settlement in the world, Brown said. “We went into an Amish style bulk food store,” he said. “Ever since I walked into the first one I thought ‘what a neat concept.’”

At first Brown had a hard time convincing Amish manufacturers of what he wanted to do. You cannot, as he said, just pick up the phone and call them. He spent weeks driving around and visiting different manufacturers. About two years ago he planned a meeting; 38 manufacturers were coming. That day, an ice storm hit.

“So we had our first meeting with the Amish manufacturers in this dark restaurant on a cloudy day and I had pizza brought in from another town to feed them,” he said.

When retail marketing expert Jim Everett, who thought the Browns’ plan was the most unique one he had seen, came on board, a second meeting was held and enthusiasm for the project grew. Things began to happen.

Brown knew he wanted a big store, offering more selection than a “mom and pop” operation. He wound up with an 86, 600 square foot building featuring 39 thousand square feet of furniture.

The furniture is “one of a kind,” Brown said. On the floor there is indoor and outdoor furniture of every kind including about 30 complete bedroom sets with 10-12 pieces so the customer can see a variety without looking at a catalog.

“We tried to get the indoors to look like outdoors so people can look at outdoor furniture in a climate-controlled outdoor setting,” Boyd said.

The bulk food section offers snacks, candies, pastas, dry mixes, canned goods, bulk frozen foods, deli meats and cheeses, and fresh Amish bakery products.

Boyd, whose sisters, Jessica and Jamie Brown often stop by to help in the family store, previously managed the greenhouse section of the farm market. She will continue in that capacity, with a little rearranging, she said. “I like this - it’s totally different,” she said. “I enjoy retail.”

While they will continue to grow enough produce for their farm market, Brown said: “This is a lot less risk than farming, a lot less stress; it doesn’t matter if it rains.”

Browns’ Marketplace is at 1416 Main Street in Hamilton. For more information visit or call 513-868-5013.

12/20/2006