We used to rent a cottage on beautiful Cayuga Lake every summer when our daughter was little. We had the greatest times there: fishing, swimming, feeding the ducks, and exploring the Finger Lakes of NY. One of our greatest finds was a little store run by Mennonites, called Sauder’s Store, in nearby Seneca Falls (and if you aren’t aware, Seneca Falls, NY is the town used in It’s A Wonderful Life called Bedford Falls in the movie and is also home to women’s voting rights: the women’s rights convention was held here and began the movement to give women the right to vote – they have a museum about it you should visit if you are in the area).
At the time we used to visit yearly while staying on Cayuga, it was a well-kept secret: hard to find if you didn’t know it was there. It was a small little place that sold Mennonite baked goods, bulk items, produce and specialty items from the area. We used to get up early to get there to have the greatest selection of baked goods! Since we stopped staying on Cayuga Lake, we try to drive out every couple of years to the shop. We hadn’t been in a while, and my parents’ house on Conesus Lake gets us about halfway there, so this past weekend we decided to make the trek (about an hour and a half from the lake house, about 2 hours from our house if we drove from here).
The store has expanded over the years and carries more items than ever before, as well as handmade wood furniture, handmade wagons, Amish quilts (they only had one when I was there, but I looked!), and plants. We filled a cart and brought home many wonderful items:
- birch beer (I bought 2 cases since it can be hard to find!)
- sassafrass soda
- Utz potato chips
- bulk spices
- butterscotch peanut butter
- bulk cake decorations
- smoothie mix
- Lebanon bologna (looks like salami, tastes like bologna or thuringer)
- smoked cheddar cheese
- blueberry cheese
- rolled butter (made from whey cream instead of sweet cream; it’s supposed to have an amazing flavor: I’ve never tried it before and will report back when I have)
- smoked pork chops (now you can buy these in the grocery store, but back when we used to come here, you couldn’t, so they were a special treat and I still think theirs has much better flavor)
- German hot dogs with cheese in them
- beef sticks
- cinnamon rolls
- whoopie pies (chocolate and pumpkin)
- alphabet noodles (I can’t find these anywhere, ever, so I was thrilled to stumble on them)
- shoofly pie
- Himalayan grain mix
- canned vanilla peaches
and much more. The aisles are jammed with bulk candy, spices, pastas, cooking mixes, flours, snacks, baking products, sodas, and it is all very different from what you can find at a regular grocery store.
We also bought an Amish-made basket as a gift for my mother-in-
law (signed on the back and dated, which is nice).
The shop is owned and run by Mennonites (basically Amish-light) and many, many Mennonites from the Finger Lakes area shop there. My great-grandmother was a Mennonite and I recognize the little caps they wear as one she wore in a photo I have of her. They have a huge selection of books about the Amish and Mennonites. They also sell wooden toys, and things like puzzles, sticker books, stationery, and other interesting little gift items. I am always on the lookout for narrow shopping list pads that are magnetic to keep on my fridge. I like to change them out for the seasons and holidays. They had an entire wall of these (I thought I had died and gone to heaven).
Shopping here always feels like stepping into a different world. There are now several
stores like this scattered throughout the Finger Lakes, but we’ll always go back to Sauder’s since we’ve been customers for almost 20 years and it reminds us of the wonderful times we had staying on Cayuga Lake. And I love that the foods we bring home are simple country-style items. I love to make complicated meals, but I also love to eat things that are just simple and delicious, and that’s what we find here.