The Davis Mercantile
The sights. The sounds. The smells. Many are the same, many bring back memories. The Davis Mercantile is once again home for many friends who gather to visit, shop, relax and eat. The beginnings of the Davis Mercantile complex date back to 1891 when Hezekiah Davis saw a need in Shipshewana to accommodate those traveling through town. Building a hotel close to the train depot was a good idea. His family built several buildings in and around Shipshewana and is remembered today for pioneering the trade that took place over one hundred years ago. In the late 1960's it was decided to move the Old Davis Hotel from its location at the corner of Main and Morton Streets to a block west on Main Street. This was no small task and was something the entire town came to see. Years later, in the 1980's the Miller family purchased the Hotel and began refurbishing the hotel that had been used for other things in the past century, including a chicken hatchery! Soon the Hotel was simply not big enough to hold all the ideas the Millers had for retail. The Davis Mercantile was added and soon became a destination within Shipshewana...
The Alvin Miller family is sad to report that on February 28, 2004 a fire destroyed an entire block in Shipshewana which included The Old Davis Hotel and The Davis Mercantile. The cause of this fire will officially be classified as undetermined pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation and development of additional information. The Old Davis Hotel was built in 1891, the Mercantile building was built in 1989. There were 4 additional buildings married into The Davis Mercantile Complex over the years, the home of eleven fine shops. We are indebted to the outpouring of love and support shown to use by this community, our faithful customers, and all of our friends and family since the fire. We are beginning to understand how much you enjoyed these buildings, our pretzels, fabrics, quilts, books, dulcimers, toys, candles, ladies' apparel and coffee breaks. We are truly humbled and gratified by your prayers and support. As you can see, we will be rebuilding at this location. We are looking forward to having an "Old Fashioned Barn Raising" in August of 2004. Please check our website www.lollys.com for current events.
February 2006 from Alvin Miller:
Elsie and I bought the Old Davis Hotel in 1982. At that time it had several small shops. We fixed up the Old Davis Hotel to once again offer sleeping accommodations. At the time, the six rooms offered were the only accommodations in Shipshewana. A large porch was added, rocking chairs became a staple for the men waiting for their wives while they shopped. In 1989 the Davis Mercantile addition was completed and opened retail space to many new shopkeepers. Business thrived. The fire on February 28, 2004 changed things for all of us. Soon after the fire it became evident to our family by the outpouring of letters from friends near, and as far away as Switzerland and New Zealand, how others felt about the Mercantile. We realized that many people took ownership in the Davis complex. To many, they had lost their stores. When the family gathered together in anticipation of planning a new building, and new gathering place for visitors, Elsie suggested a carousel on the third floor. Since we have 23 grandchildren, and they were involved in the planning stages, they soon agreed that having a carousel would be wonderful (the idea of a slide from the third floor to the lower level was an idea given by Jordan, Heidi's son!!).
Two weeks ago I was on the third floor and had a visitor begin sharing with me about his love of the Old Mercantile, and that it just hadn't been the same coming back to Shipshewana without the Mercantile. He had told his friends that he wasn't even interested in coming into the new building. He was looking for a specific candle and was told that he would find this in the Davis Mercantile. Reluctantly he moved toward the Davis Mercantile thinking "It just won't be the same." Four hours later he had finally made his way to the third floor where I ran into him.
Especially to the many people who had close connections to the old Mercantile, the Miller family welcomes you to come continue your journey with us in the new building. From the bottom of our hearts we sincerely thank you for praying for our family and our tenants through this bump in the road. Thank you for praying my own physical healing while I faced cancer. Thankfully, I have been given a clean bill of health and treasure every day. Thank you for making this journey a bit less painful.
Rebuilding the Davis Mercantile
The Great Douglas Fir
On a very cold day in December of 2004, a very special package was delivered to the Mercantile. It was on a large semi trailer. It even came with its own packing list. The packing list stated quite simply, "large log." And large it was indeed. It weighed over 18,000 pounds and was in excess of 56 feet long with a diameter of 44 inches. Immediately upon its arrival, the growth rings were counted and age of the tree was determined to be over 370 years old. That means that it was growing long before the pilgrims took refuge in our country. It was a grand daddy during the Civil War. Most trees in Indiana are lucky to make it to 100 years of age. This one would take three grown men just to give it a hug. Just how do you take a tree out of the forest that is this size? Well, it might not be as easy as it might seem. A tree this size is not cut down and logged out of the woods. It is first attached to a helicopter and then cut down! The helicopter then lifts the log above the tree line where it can then begin to move it to the loading area where it will be taken in preparation for the journey home. Our tree came to us from Kin Basket Lake, British Columbia. Folks ask us if it is holding up the building or the staircase... To this we say no. So what is its purpose? It sure keeps the men busy while the ladies shop! The other day a gentleman was leaning against the tree, and a tenant asked him to please be careful... we don't want the tree to fall over. Quickly he moved away from the tree, and then the smiles on those around him told him that he had just been had. This is why there is a tree in the building. It keeps people wondering how it came to be there, and all the other things that inquisitive minds want to know. Stop by and give our Doug Fir a hug. He’s been around for a long time, and we hope you enjoy him! Isn't he great?
A 1906 Dentzel Carousel would be a treat to ride on anywhere in the world. The German brothers who created these wonderful masterpieces were known for their attention to detail, and one hundred years later, it still shows! The original pieces of the assembled carousel are the working parts, the gears, the braces, and the center pole. All of the animals were commissioned to be carved to represent the animals you see around Shipshewana. Horses, cows, chickens, dogs, and if you're lucky, a team of "work horses" turning the soil for a farmer. Our animals were carved by Al Bontrager, who learned how to carve as a young Amish boy looking to his grandfather for instruction and direction. After they were carved, the job of painting the animals rested squarely on the shoulders of Cheryl Kellett. Hours of planning, carving and painting were put into this project. Families care finding a wonderful place to explore and visit and make memories once again in the Davis Mercantile. There's only one Shipshewana.
Our Vintage Doors
The many recycled doors on the shops add a bit of nostalgia. They were once in homes and businesses here in the Midwest. While we don't know the history behind all the doors, we do know people passed through these doors long before they came home to the Mercantile. Some of these doors came from the Cromwell School in Cromwell, Indiana. This school was torn down twenty years ago and several doors and windows were salvaged. There are other things that are not "new" here at the Mercantile. Have you noticed the slate roof on the porch of the Davis Hotel? The slate on the Davis Hotel comes from a barn in South Bend. It was in storage for years just waiting for the right roof to call home. Copper gutters that are on the building are shiny and new today, but will slowly turn a patina that twill match the "aged" doors. We hope you enjoy these doors as you enter our shops again.
The Miller Family
Alvin and Elsie Miller grew up in the Middlebury and Shipshewana area. They raised their family near Middlebury where Alvin owned a sawmill. His love and appreciation for wood is evidenced in the Davis Mercantile. Their two oldest sons, Jeff and Arlyn, were instrumental in helping with the sawmill. When it was time to "put the girls to work," Alvin spotted the Historic Davis Hotel in Shipshewana, and soon his girls were working at the fabric store owned by his sister, Lolly. As they say, the rest is history. Today, the Miller children are all involved in the Davis Mercantile in some capacity. The children are all married and bring 27 grandchildren home to the Miller's Thanksgiving table. The Millers have enjoyed being a part of Shipshewana and value the opportunities this small town has entrusted to them. Many wonderful relationships have been created over the years with our guests and friends. We look forward to more!