Tucked away in Estes Park, Colorado, just a mile from the main entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, High Country Amish Quilts is a handicraft-lover's paradise. Its walls display the quilting talents of Amish and Mennonite women from across the nation, while its shelves are stocked with one-of-a-kind table runners, wall hangings, and baskets. A unique selection of neo-vintage fabrics, quilting supplies, and cat-themed gifts round out the store's inventory and draw quilters from all over the world. "Quilters love cats for some reason," says store owner Sherie Strong, 46. "I think it's because cats love to sleep curled up in quilts."
Sherie, on the other hand, rarely has time for a catnap as she manages her bustling, eight-year-old business. Along with her local customer base, many of the approximately three million tourists who visit Estes Park each year also make a stop at HCAQ. Even though some visitors never realize it, others come to know this fact quite well: High Country Amish Quilts isn't just a business; it's a ministry.
Amish Roots Run Deep
Sherie is Mennonite, a Christian denomination with close ties to the Amish faith that shares its emphasis on community and simplicity. One set of her grandparents were Old Order Amish, and she grew up playing under a quilting frame. Now she sells quilts made on similar frames by more than 100 Amish women across the country. There's no delivery schedule; the women send the quilts to Sherie when they can, often between the births of their babies. "You'd think we'd either have too many or too few quilts at some point, but we never do," says Sherie.
The quilts take up to ten months to create, and sell for as much as $1,200. With each quilt, Sherie includes a bio of the quilter, a short history of the Amish, and the salvation message. "These women pray while they work and they see their labor as an act of worship," Sherie explains. "Their workmanship is exquisite."
Because many customers are curious about the Amish faith and the origin of the products Sherie sells, it's not uncommon for employees to engage in spiritual conversations. And these conversations sometimes give way to spontaneous prayer with patrons. "Sometimes a woman will look at me and say, 'I'm having a really bad day,' and start crying. And I'll say, 'Why don't you come to the back room so we can pray for you?'" says Sherie. "We don't do that for every customer, but we do it as the Holy Spirit leads."
Come for the Quilts, Stay for the Prayer
In fact, praying for customers is so important to Sherie and her staff, it's part of the store's four-point mission statement: First, glorify God in what they say and do. Second, encourage, inspire, and pray for customers and each other, focusing on spiritual and creative growth. Third, give 100 percent of their profits to various missions as God directs. And fourth, have lots of fun doing the above.