When I was younger, my family lived in Northern Indiana for a summer. One of the strongest memories I have is visiting the epicenter of Indiana Amish country–Middlebury. Specifically, Das Dutchman Essenhaus. I dreamed about the homemade noodles I had there for years after. Since relocating back to the Midwest, we’ve yet to make a trip. That changed over the weekend. We’d heard that Shipshewana was an antique lover’s haven, so we went with eager expectation. What amazing thing would we find to add to our collection?
We decided a full day of shopping was in order, so we arrived on Friday evening and spent the night so we could get an early start on Saturday. Our lodging, Morton Street Bed and Breakfast, is right in the center of the action with an easy walk to many of the shops in downtown Shipshewana.
The house was built in the 1870s and was the home of the first five doctors in the area. Our room, the “Parlor Room,” is often recommended for honeymooners. It’s the only bedroom located on the first floor, and it felt like we had a private sitting room and kitchen with a fridge stocked with drinks and a countertop covered with cookies from the bakery next door. The bedroom itself was a reasonable size for the age of the house, and the bathroom was a generous size. The only downside was the noise (to be expected with an old house lacking insulation)… the guest staying above us was quite the snoring champ, and the street noise filtered in. The upside of the street noise was that the clip-clop of the Amish horse and buggies, along with the decor of the house, made us feel like we had stepped back in time. A perfect mood for some serious antiques collecting.Our first stop after breakfast the next day was the bakery next door, owned and operated by the innkeepers of our B&B. We grabbed some goodies for our marathon day, including Amish peanut butter, cookies, pie, and asparagus (!) salsa. Then it was time to shop.
We visited a number of little shops, but we were really looking forward to getting to the big antique mall friends of ours love. We’ve long admired the antiques in their home, and many came from this mall. What made the timing of our trip even better was these same friends were also planning to be in Shipshewana at the same time. We planned to meet them at the mall so they could be like personal shoppers and help us find our “amazing thing.” At the appointed meeting time, however, they texted that they were sitting in front of the mall, and it was closed. Indefinitely. The disappointment was real, but we made the best of it. Our friends met us downtown instead and showed us some of their other favorite shops (where we frequently inquired if anyone knew what happened to that mall!). One shopkeeper suggested another mall in nearby Middlebury (home of the amazing noodles!), so we decided to drive over.
The antique mall in Middlebury, The Creamery, was definitely the best place we shopped all day, but I think we all still felt disappointed because our expectations had been built so high by our visions of the other antique mall. However, just before we left, a “holy grail” item came into view. A few years ago, I spent many an hour on the hunt for the perfect barrister bookshelf for my antique book collection. I finally found one, but here was another one, tempting me. What made this one unusual was the solid shelf that had been converted to a secretary. I loved it, but knew I had no place for it. Fortunately, my friend had a place for it!
While a short trip that yielded no “amazing thing,” we enjoyed every moment. The sights and sounds of Shipshewana were made even more lovely by the Christmas atmosphere that had already taken over the town. As we drove out of town, they were gearing up for the annual Christmas parade and tree lighting ceremony. A bluegrass band was playing, and I could see why our breakfast companions at the B&B had described the parade experience as being straight out of Mayberry. We were a little sad to leave before the parade, and we decided that (now that we know) we should plan to be there for the parade next time.
The highlight of the experience was definitely time with friends. I wouldn’t say that Shipshewana was the antiques Mecca I had expected, but I was glad to finally put a “face” with the place and see what the area had to offer. In addition to a Christmas parade visit, I wouldn’t mind to go back in the summer and bring our kayak along so we could also enjoy the natural beauty of the area.