Amish in NYC: Farmer commutes 6 hours a day to bring Lancaster products to his new store



Amish eyes are smiling on the Upper West Side.

Millport Dairy, the first truly authentic, Amish-owned brick-and-mortar store in the five boroughs, opened May 1 on Broadway between 97th and 98th Streets.

The shop’s managed by John Stoltzfoos — who remains convivial despite his nightmare of a commute.

Amish farmer John Stoltzfoos holds pickled eggs and dill spears in his Upper West Side storefront called Millport Dairy. Helayne Seidman
The popular shop opened on May 1. Helayne Seidman

Stoltzfoos, 58, an impressively-bearded Amish man who wears suspenders and a broad-brimmed hat, travels six hours a day every Wednesday through Saturday to get back and forth between Manhattan and his family’s farm in Lititz, Pa.

Rising before 3 a.m., Stoltzfoos relies on a hired driver — since the Amish are prohibited from driving cars or operating most modern technology — to get him and a truckload of fresh goods safely to the Big Apple.

The store opens at 7 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m.

However, Millport Dairy was closed on a recent Thursday, and dismayed customers arrived to find a note taped to the inside of the door: “Gone Fishing.”

Stoltzfoos’ face should be familiar to the city’s greenmarket regulars.

He’s been selling his family’s farm-to-city-to-table meats, dairy products, baked goods, and much-ballyhooed ethically organic eggs at New York City’s various farmers’ markets for more than 18 years.

But in January, Stoltzfoos vanished from the farmers’ market scene, much to the chagrin of his loyal customers.

Stoltzfoos’ shop has “the best eggs ever,” according to one customer. Helayne Seidman
Stoltzfoos has been selling good in NYC for 18 years. Helayne Seidman

Stoltzfoos said GrowNYC’s rules and policies had become overly restrictive, limiting the kinds of items he could sell, and so, together with the Lancaster County farm’s owner and his uncle, John King, he started looking for viable storefronts.

“With the farmers markets,” like the one in Union Square, where he was a fixture, “sometimes you’d be setting up your canopy in the pouring rain, and then, there’s unloading your truck and later, loading everything back into it again,” explained Stoltzfoos. “Now, I just open and close the door.”

On a recent sunny afternoon, people steadily wandered in and out of the shop, a former dry cleaners.

Stoltzfoos doesn’t take a horse-and-buggy to work; he has someone drive him to NYC. AFP via Getty Images

Many — including Diane Wan, 72 — immediately recognized Stoltzfoos, and left with everything from pickled okra, pork roll, and asparagus to shoofly pies, pumpkin bread, and GMO-free duck and pullet eggs. “I’m so glad you’re here,” proclaimed Wan.

“They have the best eggs ever,” stated Harriet Hoffman, 83, who lives nearby. “I would never eat eggs from the supermarket again. The quality is really what I come here for.”

The Pennsylvania dairy, which is entirely horse-powered, is also known for its butter and cheeses, including Colby, parmesan, and horseradish.

Diana Wan, 72, shops in Millport Dairy. Helayne Seidman
The shop sells baked goods, like whole wheat bread. Helayne Seidman
The pickled vegetables are a hit with Millport Dairy’s customers. Helayne Seidman

Stoltzfoos wouldn’t comment on how much Millport Farm is paying to lease the space, but said he hopes to keep the shop running “for the next 10 years — maybe 20, God willing.”

He also wouldn’t disclose his driver’s salary.

“We get the entire family involved, even the children,” Stoltzfoos said, adding what they learn working on the farm “is an education for them.” The ladies on the farm, he said, make the baked goods, including oat meal bars, ginger cookies, and zucchini bread, “with love and care.”

The store also carries strawberries, yogurt, smoked pork chops, kielbasa, and even chorizo.

“Well,” Stoltzfoos said with a smile, “the Amish like a little spice, too.”

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