In the two decades that Larry and Marlene Burkholder have owned Burkholder Country Store, they’ve learned two important lessons.
“You have to take good care of the customer,” Larry Burkholder says. “Second, we have a great community to do business with. We are thankful.”
The store is important to this rural section of Elkhart County, located a few miles west of downtown Nappanee. It is a one-stop shop for both the local Amish community and the non-Amish – a place to pick up household decorative items, gifts and cards, toys, fabric and sewing notions, and even name-brand shoes.
The business is reminiscent of local five-and-dime stores or iconic country stores, yet retains a something-for-everyone concept.
Larry and Marlene bought the business in 2001. It was much smaller then, at 2,500 square feet in size. The store had previously been owned by the same owner for 30 years.
At that time Burkholder was working in a factory, which he did for 25 years. His wife, he says, had always wanted a store, and they were both looking for a situation that would allow him to work closer to home.
“We are both people persons,” he says. “This was something we really thought we would enjoy.”
As the customer counts increased and the inventory of merchandise grew, more space was needed. In 2011 the store more than doubled in size, with a 4,000-square-foot addition built onto the existing store. Better lighting and more space brought in more customers, and the business grew again last year when a 3,600-square-foot warehouse was added.
The Burkholders’ children, Michael and Kari, help in the store when possible. Also on hand to help customers are three full-time and four part-time employees.
There are some staple merchandise items such as the fabric and sewing supplies. Fabric is important to the community.
“We try to supply fabric the customer needs,” Burkholder says.
With each expansion, the store owners have been able to expand the selection of new fabrics, giving their customers more choices.
The shoe department is also a popular place. The Burkholders carry a variety of shoes, from work and hunting boots to casual footwear styles. Name brands stocked on the shelves include Kenetrek, Red Wing, Skechers, New Balance, SAS, LaCrosse, Eastland, Nurse Mates and Saucony.There are many more styles and brands of footwear, which take up several aisles in the back of the store.
In the winter the store stocks winter clothes, including coats, hats and gloves. Lighter fashions and home decor appropriate for the season come out in the spring and summer.
Burkholder says he and Marlene try to stock additional items when they can, often after getting input from their customers.
“We are always looking for new ideas,” he says.
Last year was a challenge for the store. Shipments of inventory to the business were delayed due to the pandemic.
“It was a challenge,” Burkholder says. “We still have merchandise on backorder.”
Business has improved this year but he expects it will take some time to get business back on track, as it was prior to COVID-related shutdowns. Retail sales, however, are improving.
For three days, from September 9 through 11, the Burkholders will celebrate the store’s 20th anniversary with a sale for customers, food and giveaways, and other perks. It is a way to celebrate a milestone and thank the community for their support, according to Burkholder.
Burkholder says he measures the shop’s success by the number of satisfied customers he sees.
“We feel blessed and always want to give God the honor for this,” Burkholder says.
Burkholder Country Store is located at 29999 County Road 56 in Nappanee. For more information including hours of operation, call 574-773-4279 or visit burkholdercountrystore.com.