By Kevin Williams
One of my favorite activities when visiting Amish Country is the "discovery." The "discovery" moment has happened to me many times in Amish Country and it's usually a small hand-lettered sign that points the way. My absolute favorite Amish "discoveries" are the businesses tucked away in homes. I've found Amish bookstores crammed with volumes, tucked away in a non-descript garage at an Amish farm. All the Amish knew where the store was, because there wasn't even a sign. There's a wonderful bulk food store crammed into a tiny shed in an Amish community in Indiana. I've found bakeries in basements, quilts stores in sheds, and on and on...it's those hidden gems that bring one the most authentic Amish experience. So imagine my delight when I saw a sign in rural Hardin County, Ohio at the corner of County Road 144 and 195 pointing the way to Bontrager's Candy Shop. I slammed my brakes on, backed up, and turned down the one-lane road.
And, sure enough, a beautiful Amish farm came into view and there was a tiny sign pointing the way to the candy store.
I almost don't like sharing these discoveries because other people find out about the place, then the business grows and it can lose it's charm. Bontrager's candy store is tiny. It's in one really isn't much larger than a walk-in closet. But the shelves are amply filled with sweet treats from buckeyes, to homemade turtle candies, chocolate dipped pretzels, homemade snack mix, these amazing white-chocolate covered "Rice Krispie Balls" and I could go and on. While most of what was sold here was candy, there were a few bags of homemade noodles for sale also.
Bontrager's Candy Shop has only been around for a year and it's only open from October to April.
"It's too hot the rest of the year," Mrs. Bontrager said.
Indeed, this traditional Old Order Amish house doesn't have air-conditioning so a bunch of chocolate sitting around in July wouldn't probably go over well. I happened to stumble into Bontrager's on their first weekend in business. She said business is slow right now, maybe she'll get a couple customers a day. I loaded up on plenty of goodies as these photos show!