MARION CENTER — Debbie Ankney would much rather save something than throw it away. That was part of the appeal when Amish neighbors suggested she turn a former furniture and door-making shop on her property into a general store specifically designed to suit the needs of their community.
The Marion Center woman made that suggestion a reality late last month when Ankney’s Variety opened.
Since then, the store has been busy, according to Ankney, 50.
“There are buggies pulling in at 6:30 in the morning to get something for breakfast,” she said. “Any hour of the day or night. They know I’m here.”
Since moving to Marion Center from Derry Township, Westmoreland County, five years ago, Ankney said, she has developed a good relationship with her Amish neighbors.
“It’s a different world up here, neighbor does for neighbor,” she said. “They welcomed us right in.”
When the Amish told her that a store with groceries and supplies would be welcome in the area, she and her family began remodeling the modest building that sits just across the driveway from their home.
Ankney’s husband, Ed, and their family helped to remodel the former woodshop. Amish neighbors pitched in, too. They repaired the roof and put in a new floor, covering up openings that had once accommodated the door manufacturing operations.
After stocking up on salvage groceries as well as fabric from a craft store that was closing, Ankey’s Variety opened its doors last month.
The shop is one of 16 buildings on the 38-acre Brady Road property where Ankney and her family live. It’s so close to their front yard that, on occasion, the family’s chickens try to wander inside.
Her six children help out however they can, and so does her son-in-law, Gilbert Woodley. Even her granddaughter, Ali Woodley, 6, puts prices on merchandise.
“Everyone’s done a wonderful job and I’m really pleased,” Ankney said.
The shelves are stocked with a little bit of everything, but most of the selection was chosen with the Amish in mind. For example, Ankney said, they had asked for the salvage groceries — such as dented cans and overstocked items — so they could buy large quantities at low prices.
Colorful bolts of fabric line one wall of the store. Those, the Amish might use for quilting. She also sells dark-colored cotton and denim, which they use to make their own clothing, as well as handmade straw hats.
Some of the store’s selections, like dolls and quilts, are made by the local Amish and sold on consignment.
Top sellers so far reflect the store’s variety. Among them are cereal, shampoo, snacks, aspirin and baby formula. She plans to stock up on bulk items such as flour and cocoa, at her customer’s request. The store also sells items that may be more appealing to non-Amish customers: sports drinks, curry powder and Avon makeup.
On Wednesday afternoon, Andy Miller, an Amish man from Marion Center, stopped by to pick up some groceries.
Miller, 55, said he expects to shop at the store often.
“It’s close to home, for one thing,” he said. “And they have almost everything. We don’t need to go clean to town or somewhere else.”
There is one store similar to Ankney’s, he said. It’s on the other side of Dayton, “but that’s too far to go.”
Monica Leasure, 39, is not Amish, but has started shopping at the store as well.
The Marion Center resident lives not far from Ankney’s. She too, likes its convenience.
“Normally, where we live, we’d have to go to Hills of Home,” she said, referring to the farm market in Home.
She also is taking sewing lessons from Ankney, and plans to continue.
Ankney will offer more classes at the store in September. The dates are not set yet, but will coincide with the store’s grand opening events next month.
Until then, it sounds like she will be busy. Though the store opens at 10 a.m., she said she is available at nearly all hours for her customers.
“There’s times,” she said, “I don’t even get the goat milked and they’ll be someone waiting down there.”
She’s happy to wait on them, though and, in a neighborly spirit, the Amish return the favor. Sometimes they will even milk the goat while she rings up an order.
PHOTO: Pictured, from left, are Richard, Jennifer, Aaron, Debbie and Sarah Ankney and Ali, Holly and Gilbert Woodley. Missing from the photo is Debbie Ankney's husband, Ed.