Leaders react to Amish Acres closure

Amish Acres in Nappanee will close at the end of 2019. That has community leaders sad and looking at what the future holds for Nappanee tourism.

NAPPANEE — The announced closure of Amish Acres in Nappanee has drawn sorrowful reactions from the community, including Nappanee Mayor Phil Jenkins. 

“For 50 years, Amish Acres has been the primary destination for visitors heading to Nappanee,” he said in a press release. “Through the vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and dedication of Dick Pletcher, Amish Acres has provided the entire region with a rich cultural treasure.”

He said Amish Acres has helped preserve Nappanee’s history and celebrate Amish and Anabaptist lifestyles through traditional Threshers Dinners at the barn, tours of the historic farm and plays in the Round Barn Theatre.

Amish Acres will close after the fireworks finale of the New Year’s Eve Celebration and Cabaret, which concludes the destination’s 50th anniversary year. The closure is a result of the owners, the Pletcher family, retiring. 

“This golden anniversary is a wonderful tribute to the nearly 10,000 employees who over the years have provided the best of Hoosier Hospitality to nearly five million visitors from around the world,” said CEO Richard Pletcher.

Amish Acres honors the first Amish family who settled in Indiana, migrating from Ohio to southern Elkhart County in 1839, just nine years after the county was created. The historic farm and heritage resort includes a 400-seat restaurant, 400-seat performing arts theater, and numerous shops. They are all created from authentic structures moved to the site, including pre-Civil War log buildings and hand-hewn barns.

“Our purpose from the beginning has been to enlighten, educate and entertain inquisitive visitors about Amish history and culture,” Pletcher said.

Along with guided tours of the restored farmstead and domestic craft demonstrations, Amish Acres has become a culinary and entertainment destination, according to Pletcher. The restaurant’s family-style Threshers Dinner menu hasn’t changed in five decades and has been named “Indiana’s best meal” by Travel Trade magazine.

The Round Barn Theatre produced “Plain and Fancy” for 33 years. It is a 1955 Broadway musical about Amish life and love. With more than 3,500 performances, it is the longest-running annually produced musical in America, according to Amish Acres. Some 524 actors have been in “Plain and Fancy” over the last 24 years.

Diana Lawson, CEO of the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said she is saddened by the news of Amish Acres’ closure. 

“We are forever grateful to Richard Pletcher and his family for the tremendous contributions they have made to the Nappanee area and Elkhart County,” she said. “Richard Pletcher’s leadership in the areas of tourism and hospitality helped put the Elkhart County destination on the map for visitors and laid the foundation for the strong position we are in today.”

While this is a loss for the Elkhart County area, the city of Nappanee and the surrounding area will continue to be an outstanding destination for visitors and residents, according to Lawson. Entrepreneurs like Pletcher have been investing in Nappanee, opening new businesses and restaurants, building community gathering places and welcoming a new generation of visitors to experience what makes the city special, she said.

Amish Acres’ land and buildings will be sold at auction by Schrader Auction Co. at a date in January soon to be announced. Jenkins said the city is committed to working with the family to find a suitable buyer.

The mayor said that Nappanee is known for its resiliency and that the city will work with the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote tourism and hospitality opportunities in the area when Amish Acres is no more. He also extended his well-wishes to the Pletcher family.

“We wish the Pletchers a long and well-deserved retirement,” he said. 

Amish Acres will remain open on its regular scheduled hours for the remainder of the year. That includes the restaurant for lunch and dinner, the retail shops plus six performances per week of “Beauty and the Beast.” Special events remaining include Breakfast with Santa, Meet the Characters Brunch and the New Year’s Eve event.

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