An Ohio Amish family owns three stores that use several electrical appliances and that advertise on the Internet. An article in the Detroit Free Press on Monday this week describes the unusual Amish furniture, bakery, and bulk foods stores run by Daniel Miller and his brothers Larry and Harry, Jr., in Adams County, Ohio.
These inventive brothers allowed an “English” company, the publishers of Ohio Traveler Magazine, to put up a website for their business. While they are unlikely themselves to ever see the page that advertises their operations, they are willing to allow the travel company to promote their businesses in magazines, with travel writers, and on the Web.
The advertising page for the Miller businesses has an aerial photo showing the three large stores in West Union, Ohio, with lots of cars in the big parking lots. Photos of tempting baked goods and beautiful furniture also grace the page. At the bottom is a disclaimer indicating that the Miller brothers are not responsible for the advertisement. It states, “This Web page is a complimentary service we provide many of our clients and is not to be considered a Web site by Miller’s.” The family is thus not directly responsible for promoting itself on the Internet.
Unfortunately, the website advertisement does not mention the uses of technology in the three stores, though the newspaper article does. The unique aspect of electrifying their operations is that they use solar collectors and a bank of truck batteries to provide the electricity to power several business machines. Like other Amish people, they will not use commercial electricity—that would connect them too closely to the surrounding, mainstream world. The Amish tend to evaluate all technologies to decide how much impact they might have on their family and community values.
But they usually do not have problems using electricity that they generate themselves. In the case of the Miller family, the alternative energy sources support a family business that helps hold the brothers together, they feel. They have solar collectors behind the buildings and a windmill on the roof of the furniture store, all to supply electricity for the batteries. The energy powers credit card machines, cash registers, and a photocopier in the furniture store. They also use gas to heat the ovens in the bakery and compressed air to power the cheese slicer in the bulk foods store.
Daniel Miller’s conclusion for the reporter is a very practical, and environmentally sensitive, ethic for the family firm: “The world may run out of oil and gas, but we will always have the sun and wind.”