South Maclean’s Tim Legg scoffed at the thought of visiting the Amish of Pennsylvania on a holiday to America with his wife and kids in 2012.
On paper, it was the trip of a lifetime.
They were going to Disneyland, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, New York, Boston, Texas, Tennessee, and then there was the Amish of Lancaster County…
He blames his wife, Kim Legg, for that one.
“Honestly, when she said we were going to see how the Amish lived I thought, ‘what a waste of time. Why would we want to go and do that?’” Tim recalls.
Kim’s interest in the Amish started long before their holiday came to fruition.
She is an avid reader of Amish novels and wanted to see their way of life in person.
“We went to Pennsylvania for me because I wanted to see the Amish,” she says.
“It’s a fascination with the Amish and their way of life.
“They have a simple way of life and they make it work and it’s successful, and their families and their faith are flourishing.”
Kim knew it wouldn’t be Tim’s cup of tea initially.
“He said we would go there, but we’ll just slot a couple of days there into the itinerary, just so you’re there, you sleep, then you wake up, you see a few things and move on,” she says.
But it was an experience that turned out to have a huge bearing on their lives.
Tim’s preconceptions of wasted time quickly turned to intrigue and endearment as he got to know the Amish.
“They’re just such dear-hearted people,” he says. “Someone outside would kind of look at them and think they have a boring life and dress like weirdos, but man they have nothing but fun.”
Tim soon realised why Amish communities are popular holiday destinations for Americans.
“Their food is fabulous, their countryside’s beautiful,” he says.
But he was most impressed by how self-sufficient they were.
“Going into some of their homes, their shops, and seeing that they’re pretty much self-sufficient people as a community, and they’re just so old school, you just can’t imagine that you can still get around these days without a phone and using a horse and buggy, and no electricity – it’s such a bizarre concept to us and I really like it,” he adds.
The Amish come from the Mennonite Christian tradition and have been in America for roughly 400 years.
They live simplistically without much electricity or contact with the outside world and are strong on faith.
“They just party hard in their own way, they live for the fun of things, they are strict with what they believe, and they all do it together as one group,” Tim says.
“Even though you might get different Amish groups hundreds or thousands of kilometres apart, they stick to simple principles, which are biblical principles.”
Upon returning home to Brisbane, the whole Legg family sat around the table for a holiday debrief.
They all agreed their 3-day Amish experience topped the lot.
“We were over there for five weeks and did all those other things, and everyone in the whole family agreed – it was spending time where the Amish are,” Tim says.
On that first trip, they met and stayed at a bed and breakfast owned by a former Amish man, who still had strong ties to the community.
He became their tour guide and friend, who they’ve been back to visit four times – their last trip was back in 2019.
“We got on so well that every year we’d go back and visit,” Kim says.
The Amish are known for being highly industrious, especially when it comes to homewares and timber manufacturing.
They are best known for their handstitched quilts and high-end timber furniture pieces that last a lifetime.
Typically, they construct their furniture with old-fashioned joinery and without nails, screws, or glue.
Tim was instantly drawn to their workmanship as he had always been interested in woodwork and done it for fun in his downtime.
This inspired him to start his own shop for handcrafted timber furniture and homewares.
In 2018, Tim and Kim launched Timbo’s Shop of Old-World Homewares at Browns Plains.
The shop specialises in hand-crafted homewares, kitchenware, hand stitched Amish quilts, scented candles, goats milk soaps, and bespoke timber furniture.
But none of this would have happened if they didn’t visit the Amish.
“If we didn’t go over there, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Tim says.
Before launching the shop, Tim owned his own pest control business.
He then sold his pest control company and used woodworking as a hobby to unwind and relax, which then took on a new life as a business of its own.
“It started off as a hobby, I sold my business a few years ago, which was a pest business, and ended up tinkering in the shed to unwind from having a business.
“That combined with being over to the Amish, it kind of seems like a natural progression to take it from a hobby and turning it into a business.”
Timbo’s Shop is modelled off other Amish businesses that Tim and Kim saw in their travels.
“We went and saw one guy – we went to his workshop which is like a 170-year-old, 3-story barn,” Tim says.
“He has some really high-tech gear but some really primitive gear as well, and he sends tables out to Australia, Scotland, Jamaica, this guy, and he doesn’t even have a phone.”
That same old-school approach is reflected in Tim’s method.
“I love just working with wood, even for me, say, the jewellery boxes, there’s so much detail in them, but I start off from a rough sawn-off piece of timber, so basically this tree to beautiful piece that is like an heirloom quality item,” he says.
“Just taking it from raw material and turning it into something that people find beautiful.”
Every Saturday the whole family is at the shop from 9am till 12pm helping to run the business.
The shop itself is modelled from a typical Amish home, which Kim says is an attempt to bring back old-school home comfort.
“The feeling that you got when you walked into their homes and the hospitality that you felt was something that we’d never experienced,” she says.
“So we’ve tried to bring that back here and instill that, because I think that the whole hospitality thing is being lost, and the warmth of the home and the home being a comfort to people and a safe place.”
Even the kids have their own roles in the shop.
Their son, Jude, helps Tim make the furniture and is in charge of making shaker boxes from thin sheets of American cherry, black maple, or walnut.
Daughters Grace, Faith, and Hope help Kim with general duties around the shop and help make the homewares, kitchenware, soaps, and candles.
Kim looks after the admin and homewares.
She also manages importations of the hand-stitched Amish quilts, which the Amish are famous for.
During the lockdowns last year, they had a huge number of orders coming from all over Australia and New Zealand for shaker boxes, candles, and other homewares.
The Leggs were preparing to hold a market stall at the Jimboomba Country Markets in March, which has since been cancelled due to wet weather.
Their attention now turns to future markets.
That gives Tim enough time to start a new batch of cigar and jewelry boxes to put on show.
To learn more about Timbo’s Shop, visit https://timbosshop.com.au/ or pop in and say hi to them on Saturdays from 9am-12pm Unit 16, 8-14 St Jude Court, Browns Plains.