By Kevin Williams
Delbert Schlabach is a master multi-tasker, part showman, part nuts-and-bolts entrepreneur. On the busy lead-up to Thanksgiving he was talking with me while juggling numerous other tasks. His enthusiasm and vision is what makes The Home Place one of my favorite Plain-owned businesses.
"Morning, Ralph," he says to a customer as we walk through the aisles. The Schlabachs know most of their regulars by name which gives the store an old-time feel.
Then a vendor walks up waving an invoice.
"Take it into the office and we'll get you a check."
Delbert Schlabach and his family built The Home Place from scratch. You can read more of their backstory in my first visit last summer.
"We opened exactly 8 years ago today," Delbert says. It was the eve of the Great Recession and the store struggled to survive.
"Even two years ago I never imagined we'd grow this big," Delbert says, eyeing the expanded bulk food section of his store.
The Schalabachs are part of a small Beachy Amish Mennonite church community that has sprung up along Ohio 125 in rural Brown County, Ohio. What started out as a small furniture store has morphed into a market that sells everything from bedroom suites to homemade creme horns. The store's famous homemade granola (a recipe perfected by Delbert's wife, Susan) is still a swift seller. I made sure to get some for my Dad, since it was his birthday. The granola business has grown so much that it recently had to be spun off as a separate business entirely. The granola is available in some retail stores, you can see a map here.
This past summer The Home Place completed a series of renovations that practically doubled the store's size. There is now a full-service deli counter where people can order a made-to-order sandwich. Delbert has plans to expand and renovate the bakery so that customers will be able to watch the bakery churn out confections, from pies to cookies. And look for a big wrap-around porch where customers can sit and wile away the afternoon. For holiday shoppers the store's old counter has been incorporated as part of a gift-wrapping station where customers can get their purchases ready to put under their tree.
Our partner paper, the News Democrat in Georgetown recently interviewed Delbert and he described his plans for the store's future:
"“The next phase is to build out over the existing roof,” Schlabach said. “Enclose it and put a wrap-around porch with new entrance, a better entrance and all of that and more warehouse. What I built didn’t allow for much warehouse space. I have a little but not a lot. I have just enough to get by. I wanted more retail space which I have now. The next phase is more warehouse, more kitchen space, and I want to relocate the bathrooms and open up this whole space between the deli and the furniture. It will be totally different. The next phase would probably be to look at building another addition for more furniture. That could be 10 years from now, but it’s what we are looking at. We have a plan in place. I don’t want to be all furniture or all food. I am going to be a combination of furniture, food, and gifts.”"
In addition to being a businessman, Delbert Schlabach is also a minister in his church, so he has to travel at times for pastoral duties. But the store is always in capable hands, run capably by his children and wife. One of his daughters is the store manager.
"We want to keep the Mom and Pop feel, we are out to please our customers and that is what they want," Delbert Schlabach says.