I arrived at my destination about mid-morning, and was not surprised to see lots of folks already shopping in The Dutchman’s Store.
Yes, gang! My Mecca for this trip was a Mennonite-run general store, specializing in plain and simple goods. While they do allow the English in their store (what the Amish and the Mennonites call the rest of us), many of their clients are Amish farmers from the local area. I was told it was a popular destination, and–considering how small the town is, how rural the area is … and how many cars filled the parking lot–they weren’t kidding. When I arrived, I was lucky to find a parking place.
Needless to say … they don’t have a website … but if you’d like to do the pilgrimage yourself, they’re located at:
The Dutchman’s Store
103 Division Street
Cantril, IA 52542
I’ll warn you, though. The Dutchman’s is way, WAY, WAY off the beaten path. I drove close to 300 miles on two-lane blacktop and rural four-lane (not all of it well-maintained) to go visit there … but it was worth the trip. However, don’t worry if you’re not up for driving the highways and byways of Iowa! The Dutchman’s Store takes telephone/mail/credit card orders, too. And–from what I’ve been told by people who’ve bought from them that way before–the only thing you’ll pay is the actual store cost, and the actual shipping cost: no massive “handling” charges here!
The store is roughly divided into three main sections: sewing goods, clothing and housewares, and then food. Simply put, The Dutchman’s Store contains pretty much everything you’d need to run a small farm or homestead … but, in my eyes … it was a lot more than that. It was a wealth of hard-to-find items for me!
Starting at the back of the store, the sewing section was amazing! I’ve got to figure out how to get my aunt there at least once. She’s a quilter, and she’d LOVE this place! It features six long aisles of material, mostly sedate cotton prints of various graduated colors–suitable for quilting and–of course–most Mennonite and Amish garb. There were also a few heavy-duty fabrics thrown in, tons of sewing notions, and lots more on the end-caps. Need a certain shade of purple cotton cloth for a quilt? The Dutchman’s Store probably has exactly what you need! Want a new oilcloth tablecloth? You can buy it by the yard there
In a small section of the sewing area, I also found a few racks of hand-made clothing for sale: baby dresses and children’s clothes, aprons and various kitchen items, many with the seamstress’s name sewn inside. One of my friends is currently expecting a girl, so I was able to get her a sweet little baby dress–hand-made … and extremely well-made at that–for only $12.95. I also picked myself up one of those old-style wrap-around aprons–a style I haven’t seen in decades, with the skirt and a slightly ruffled top, and in a size that fits me comfortably–for only $13.95.
Then–hanging from the corner of one aisle–I also found a homemade grocery bag keeper: one of those tubes of material with holes at either end, cinched in with a little elastic cord, meant to trap/store plastic grocery bags. Now, I know I could easily make something like that, but–I don’t have a dedicated sewing room, so–it just hasn’t been a priority for me when my sewing machine was out. Instead, I’ve made do the last ten years with two I bought: both flimsy, both cheap and bought from Wal-Mart. I’ve been through two of them because the thin elastic cord in in those models stretches out with time. Instead, the new one I bought on this trip is VERY long, broad, and heavy-duty, with nice, strong, one-inch elastic at either end. It holds almost twice as many bags as the others I’ve had, and–with that sort of elastic sewn in–I’ll bet it will last me at least ten years! And–bonus points–I only paid $1 more for this one than the ones I bought from Wal-Mart.
There was also a crayon apron there that made me wish my granddaughter was still a little younger. They had them in a couple of very bright colors/patterns. I loved the ladybug pattern best, but they were all cute! Each one was made with slots sewn into the front of the apron, designed to hold all the crayons that came with it. My granddaughter would have loved that three years ago, but now–at nine–she’d probably think she was far too mature for one these days. However, it was still a great item, and very inexpensive considering the work that went into it. It would make the perfect gift for a creative child, and (I believe…it’s more than a week later now, so my memory is fading) they were something like $11-14.00.
Next, I found the most amazing aisle of decorative kitchen/dining items, including lots of depression era-style glassware like this and this … and enamelware like this and this. Sorry, these are not the actual pictures of the stuff they actually sell. Truth be told, I only took a few pictures in the store. I suppose I could have walked around snapping pictures of everything with my iPhone … but considering whose store this is–and who their main clients are–I decided that might be considered exceptionally rude. You’ll just have to make do with my fading memory instead
They had probably five different main colors of glassware available, with extra colored pieces available in several more. For each main color, you could find a basic covered butter dish, a couple of different styles of candy dishes, a couple of different flat serving dishes, salt & pepper sets, etc., etc. … including the obligatory lidded chicken dish, found in almost every old-timey grandma’s house. In the enamelware, you could also find cups, dishes, and serving pieces in most colors/patterns. They had at least four different colors of that classic speckled farmhouse pattern–black, red, yellow … and actually I think they also had some green and blue, too–and then a couple of other different patterns from there. I especially liked their red with black roosters pattern, so much so that I bought myself a coffee cup in that style
They also had an interesting section of melamine dinnerware: not extensive, but it contained several designs I’d never seen before. I brought home a set of four bowls that I thought were a great addition to our cabinets, a rose pattern with scalloped edges. That’s also my enamelware coffee cup in the same picture
The only thing I didn’t find–and I was very disappointed that I didn’t–was an old-time European butter crock, the kind that keeps your butter at room temperature and on the counter top, suspended underwater to keep it soft and fresh. I’d hoped that if anyone had one, it would be The Dutchman’s Store, but–unfortunately–they didn’t.
On that same aisle, however, you can also buy every cheesy Iowa and old-time souvenir you could ever want or need: the old “You said you wanted a half a cup of coffee” half coffee cups, painted wood bear plaques with thermometers in them, little toothpick holders that look like wood barrels … you know the kind of stuff I’m talking about. There was also a section through there where they offered a small selection of purses, wallets, etc., along with things one might want to keep in a purse: mirrors, combs, pill holders, and a whole lot more. There I found a wallet for my cute hubby … and one for me, too
The next two aisles were kids toys and paper products: books, scrapbooking, school supplies, that sort of stuff. I skipped them both, as well as most of the middle section of the store, which is where they had all their clothing and shoes. They sell a classic variety of heavy-duty work clothes and shoes, things like sweaters, etc. … but I’ll be honest. I didn’t need anything in those sections, and I was itching to get into the groceries … so I didn’t look too hard through there.
Turning down the first aisle in the food section, I found one of the main things I came to The Dutchman’s Store in search of: Rada Cutlery
My friend who first told me about The Dutchman’s sang the praises of these beauties online. Then, when I visited her house earlier on my trip, she showed me one of her Rada paring knives. I recognized them instantly as the same knives as some my parents once had. I’m not sure where they got them, but they were knives that sharpened easily, and retained their edge longer than most other knives … so I knew even before I got to Iowa that I wanted to bring several of them home with me!
What makes Rada Cutlery so great? That’s simple. In addition to the fact that they’re USA/Iowa-made, they’re also one-piece knives.
As you can see, the handle and the blade are all the same piece of metal, so there’s no wood or plastic handles to break or chip. In my house–where I seem to be especially hard on knife handles, and knives in general–that design makes them useful and hopefully durable.
The Dutchman’s Store offers a huge selection of Rada knives and accessories, and–bonus points–they’re really inexpensive, too … especially there. In fact, I only paid $3.69 for their Granny Parer–one of their least expensive offerings–and $11.45 for that same French chefs knife you see above, which is one of the most expensive knives in the collection. Do the math. That’s $3.50 cheaper than that link I gave you for Amazon above … so if you decide you want to buy several Rada knives, you’ll probably save going through The Dutchman’s Store, even if you buy enough to qualify for free shipping at Amazon.
All in all, I don’t remember exactly how many Rada knives I bought. I stood there almost 15 minutes drooling … but I’ll be sure to list them in my final recap. Be looking for it. As I unload the car, I’m going to inventory everything in it for my blog … just to capture the moment in history
Once I dragged myself away from the knives, I explored the rest of the cutlery and kitchen gadgets section. I did find several large metal serving spoons (long-handled ones, like the kind you use for big canning pots) and a 2-gallon, food-grade, stainless steel pail (for $9.99 … what a STEAL!) cruising through there, but–honestly–the rest of this section was kinda disappointing. It reminded me of one of those kitchen outlet-type stores that you find at outlet malls. What’s the name? Kitchen Collection? In fact, I found a lot of the same brands of merchandise in this section of The Dutchman’s that I find in that same store … cherry pitters, silicone spatulas, that sort of thing … so it was basically a feast or famine section for me. Some of it was unique and awesome. Some of it I could find at any outlet mall.
Around the next corner, though … I was in heaven! The next aisle started their bulk section … which I began crawling in slow motion, not wanting to miss a single item. To say it was extensive is an understatement, and–truthfully–I didn’t see a single thing in The Dutchman’s that wasn’t either comparable or cheaper (anywhere from somewhat cheaper to significantly cheaper to “OMG!…let’s grab 10″ kinda cheaper) than what I’ve found elsewhere. I’m a thrifty shopper, so that’s a compliment on their pricing.
Let me see how much of it I can remember, shall we?
- flours of every variety: cake, plain, self-rising, whole wheat, soy, rice, corn, more exotics from there
- sugars of every variety: white, brown, icing, decoratives, agave nectar, honey of various forms, more
- dried fruits of every variety, including kiwis … which I’d ever seen dried before. I grabbed some dry, unsweetened, ground coconut for my pantry … which makes great no-sugar-added coconut custard pies
- nuts in bulk, all varieties. Most of the prices were excellent, but I was a little spoiled after finding almonds in the Middle Eastern section of Chicago for $2.50/pound.
- grains of all sorts of varieties, and in all sorts of styles. Their offerings included everything from bulgar wheat to quinoa, from oats to a couple of things I’d never even heard of … and, for example, they offered pearl barley, steel-cut barley, and barley flakes. Another shopper struck up a conversation with me on that aisle, and we ended up sharing recipes for adding whole grains into our diets
- all sorts of your basic nut and cracker-type snack mixes, along with at least a hundred different varieties of bulk candies
- spices galore! If I hadn’t just stocked up in Chicago, I would have probably bought more … but I got so many great deals at a previous stop that this was one area The Dutchman’s couldn’t touch. In most cases, their prices were half or less than most grocery stores–especially in my area–but they weren’t inexpensive enough to beat Patel Brothers and the other spice shops on Devon Ave.
- extracts galore! I was especially impressed by their pricing. As you can see from the picture below, they carry an extensive selection of flavors and brands … and–in most cases–their prices were less than half of regular West Coast retail. Bonus points: they also offered 10 or so flavors in a line of concentrated flavorings, the kind that work best for things like candy–for $1.29/bottle. That had my mind spinning pretty instantly
- pastas of every variety, including 10-pound bags of the common shapes/styles.
- canning stuff! Oh, my! Canning stuff! I bought a roll of 288 wide-mouth canning jar lids for $36.95. That’s $1.54 a dozen. Beat that at your local grocery store! I just saw them on sale at Safeway for $3.54/dozen … down from their regular $4.29/dozen. Even Wal-Mart sells them for $2.12/dozen. I’ve never seen them cheaper than buying in bulk at The Dutchman’s Store. Needless to say, you can buy regular lids that way, too. Sorry, but I forgot to look at how much those sold for … but I’m sure it was a deal, too.
- They sell cases of Ball and Kerr jars–everything from 4oz to half-gallon–with pricing similar to what I’ve seen at my local Wal-Mart and ACE Hardware, which means it may not make them cost-efficient once you add shipping. However, they also sell cases of just jars (without rings and lids) that were marked cheap enough that it may be worth paying to have them shipped, too.
- They offered both 16-quart and 23-quart Presto pressure canners, both dial gauge and both priced the much the same way I’ve seen them in lots of other places: $69.95 and $99.95, respectively. Honestly, Amazon’s probably a better option for most people on this item (especially considering the free shipping possibility) but I mention them just for the documentation. However, if you don’t live too far from The Dutchman’s Store … and you’re already sitting here with your tongue hanging out watching me describe what I saw, and already planning a drive … you could have one now … without having to wait for the UPS man
- I also found Ball Pickle Crisp … which I’ve been trying to find forever! Bonus points: it was $4.79 for a 5.5 ounce jar … the same one you can get from that link to Amazon for almost $10.
- They sell Clear Jel®, Clear Jel® instant, and something they call Dutch Jel (which they say is designed to use in no-sugar or Splenda/Nutrasweet/etc.-sweetened products), all thickeners designed to use in baking and–most importantly–canning. As I posted about two months ago, I found a 25# bag of Clear Jel® before I left on this trip–for a price that even The Dutchman’s bulk section couldn’t touch ($1.57/pound), so I didn’t buy anything from them in this section except some of the Dutch Jel. However, I didn’t ask them about buying it in 25# bags. If they sell them–and they probably do–it could be worth it for someone else who doesn’t have ready access to it (like I do) to buy it there/have it shipped from IA. Look at your personal situation, and–as always–do the math
- When it comes to things to use to preserve meats, I found Morton Tender Quick ($3.89) and Morton Sugar Cure ($7.79), as well as their own blend of meat cure (in bulk) and plain pink salt. They also sell a variety of pre-packaged cures for various meat products: bratwurst, buckboard bacon, bologna, hot dogs and much more … all at prices that looked pretty reasonable to me. They also have sausage casings available–including the non-meat kind (which can suit a wide variety of dietary restrictions)–in several different sizes, and for a very reasonable amount of money when compared to most of the casings I’ve found. For example, I bought a package marked “Edible Sausage Casings, 3-30ft, 28mm” for $7.99. That’s basically three times the amount of casings as I can buy locally … for the exact same amount of money! Italian links, anyone?
- Their bulk section also includes puddings (instant and cooked) and gelatins
both in most of the popular flavors. From the looks of the instructions printed on them, most are prepared exactly like the more expensive, pre-measured and boxed varieties, but they sell for a fraction of their cousins with the fancier packaging. I get the distinct impression that The Dutchman’s Store buys pretty much anything they can find in commercial/restaurant bulk … then they break it down into smaller bags, and pass the savings on to their customers.
- They also sold all sorts of other pre-packaged mixes, for things like potato salad (you add the mix to cooked potatoes and mayonnaise), various rice blends, soups (I bought a bag of clam chowder mix to try: just add milk), dips, and a whole lot more. There is no way I could even begin to remember how many there were, but you’ll see what I bought for myself when I put my final list together. I’ll be sure to indicate what I bought where when I do.
- a huge selection of pickles, and another huge selection of fruit spreads. I scanned them looking for the unique or unusual … but didn’t find anything I couldn’t make myself … so I didn’t bother to make much in the way of mental notes
- As far as exotics go … I didn’t need a butter churn, but maybe you do
- Unfortunately, I had to just pass the deli meat, cheese, and frozen sections by. I had no interest in trying to juggle an ice chest for a couple of thousand miles
- I also bypassed the bread section, since I didn’t need any … and it was still a loonnnggg way home.
- And I know I’ve forgotten at least 3-4 things on this list … because the store was just overwhelming. I spent several hours there, in fact, and ended up spending not quite $300 in total. But, hey! I wasn’t home shopping for groceries … so consider this just me grocery shopping
Stay tuned for the list! It’s going to be … extensive! …chuckles…