By Mary Heyl
Now that the snow and ice are gone and mud season has almost passed, it is the perfect time to take a journey along New York’s Amish Trail!
The historic village of Randolph, which is just a 30 minute drive from Ellicottville, is known as the southern gateway to Cattaraugus County’s large Old Order Amish settlement. Visitors and residents alike can learn a lot about this simple, self-sufficient settlement, as they explore the various Amish businesses on the trail.
It’s easy to get started on your journey. Visitors can stop by the Randolph Municipal Building’s Welcome Center, which is open 24 hours a day, at 72 Main Street. There, full-color New York Amish Trail maps are available for motorists to take a self-guided tour throughout the Amish community. A listing of Amish businesses is included in the guide, so whether one is primarily interested in quilts or furniture, the guide will point the way.
Those unfamiliar with the back roads of Cattaraugus County can take advantage of a guided Amish Trail tour. These tours are available by reservation only and are arranged with an experienced local guide who accompanies you in your vehicle. Most guided tours last approximately three hours, and the tour guide can even tailor the tour to suit visitors’ interests and time constraints.
Guided tours are just $40 and should be scheduled at least 48 hours in advance of your visit. To arrange a tour, contact the Randolph Area Community Development Corporation at (716)358-9701 ext. 208 or New York’s Amish Trail at 1-800-331-0543.
What can visitors expect when they visit Randolph’s Amish community? Right away, visitors can observe the slower pace of Amish life, as theirs is a world separate from modern technology, traffic and commercialism. Along the way, drivers are sure to encounter horse-drawn buggies; take care not to follow too closely and pass with caution.
Unlike some other Amish communities in the United States, Randolph’s Amish settlement is still very conservative. Clothes are hand-sewn in dark, muted colors (typically black, navy, and dark green), and lack even one of the simplest forms of “clothing technology”—the zipper, opting for old-fashioned buttons instead. Amish homes do not have phones or electricity, and even their farming practices are simpler, as all farm machinery is horse-drawn. Visitors are welcome to observe Amish homes and farms as they drive by in their vehicles; however, they do not open their homes to visitors to enter.
Most visitors enjoy shopping for high-quality, handmade Amish goods, which are available all along the Amish Trail. Amish businesses are operated right on the family’s property and are typically open most days of the week except Sunday. Popular destinations include Malinda’s Candy Shop, where hungry visitors can shop for a variety of homemade candies, goat milk fudge, jams, jellies, and seasonal goodies.
At Fairview Lawn Furniture, shoppers can peruse a beautiful selection of hand-crafted lawn chairs and picnic tables. Families with children will especially enjoy the Toy Shop on Pope Road in Randolph, where all kinds of wooden toys, including trains, cars and more are for sale. Visitors should keep in mind that there are many businesses along the way that do not have official names or are simply roadside stands with fresh produce, flowers and baked goods. Do remember to bring plenty of cash, as the Amish do not accept checks, and certainly not credit cards!
If you need to get cash or a quick bite to eat, be sure to visit downtown Randolph before starting your journey! Randolph has three banking institutions with ATMs for visitors’ convenience, as well as a variety of “English” restaurants and shops. Breakfast and lunch are served daily at Vern’s Place on Jamestown Street, and BB’s Family Restaurant on Main Street is open daily for any meal. You can also get your Amish Trail visit off to an authentic start by sharing a meal in an Amish buggy inside R&M Restaurant on Main Street near the I-86 intersection.
There are lots of friendly businesses to explore in Randolph, and most are located right on historic Main Street. Randolph Retail Company carries a variety of American-made ladies’ clothing, gifts, and children’s toys. They also offer free gift wrapping — one of the many perks of “shopping small.” Next door, Yarn for Ewe carries all kinds of yarn, needles, buttons and patterns for your knitting and crochet projects and offers knitting and crochet classes. New for 2016, Yarn for Ewe carries a variety of Amish-made goods including jams, candy, fudge, quilts, purses, pot-holders, aprons, soaps, Amish dolls and more. Don’t forget to pick up a beverage to enjoy later at Countryside Wine & Spirits, and journey just a bit further down Main Street to pick up a souvenir for your pet at Stillwater Feeds Pet Supply Store!
To learn more about Randolph’s Amish community, including Amish beliefs, customs, and traditions, visit www.AmishTrail.com. There, you can also download a copy of the latest brochure and view photos of the many Amish and English businesses that are members of the trail.