Episode 26: Kathy Kuderer of Down A Country Road
In this episode of Brandstorm, we welcome Kathy Kuderer, owner and manager of Down A Country Road Gift Shops and Tour Service. Kathy talks about how her relationship with Amish families in her community led to a successful retail and tour service business.
Kathy was only six years old when her family moved to rural Cashton, WI. The town is located 30 miles east of LaCrosse, and is home to the largest population of Amish in the state. Kathy made many connections with Amish families in her community, establishing bonds and learning cultural significances that would later help her in business as a seller of Amish goods. Now in its 25th season and serving over 20,000 visitors each May through October, Down A Country Road offers an endless array of handmade Amish products, ranging from jams, jellies and their buttery homemade cashew crunch to furniture and home decor, such as rugs, quilts and candles.
Kathy and her husband Chuck moved to the farm site of Down A Country Road when they married 40 years ago. One of the current gift shops on the property dates back to 1905, while four of the six buildings were built by the Amish. Kathy works with about 45 Amish families, as well as local crafters who sell their work through Kathy’s stores.
As the Amish are known for not interacting with the public, Kathy visited with many Amish families to gauge their interest in having visitors tour the Amish community before opening her tour service. In the six months leading up to the opening, she heard their concerns, understood that each family has a different level of comfort with visitors in their homes, and based her tours on being as non-invasive as possible. She rides along with customers in their own vehicles instead of taking a large, branded van. The tours also allow for potential sales of Amish goods right there in their homes, so the interactions are mutually beneficial. Kathy has now given over 2,500 Amish tours to people from all over the world. Tours are usually at 10am and 2pm daily, and are booked through reservation only.
Marketing Before the Digital Age
Kathy talks about getting the word out about her business before social media or websites, working with local media and making connections with area tourism spots like hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts. She says that many of those businesses were looking for something to market to their own visitors, and the curiosity of the Amish community helped in that regard.
Competition with a New Generation of Amish
Kathy says that as a new generation of Amish are potentially more akin to interacting with the public to sell their products, however she is confident in her relationship with the many Amish families she continues to work with. For one thing, they don’t have phones and many Amish crafters still want someone to make their contacts for them, so they can focus on their work. Kathy is more than happy to be that liaison.
Phone: (608) 654-5318