Forest Hill Leather Craft

Slow Down. Relax. Breathe. You’re in Amish Country

I have had the privilege of meeting dozens, maybe even hundreds, of Amish craftsmen over the last decade or so. As the Amish population grows, farmland does not, and out of necessity, Amish people have forayed into various “cottage industries” that they can develop on a small homestead. What may have been borne out of necessity, has in some cases become a treasured pursuit.  

Forest Hill Leather Craft June 2023 Ad

Slow down. Relax. Breathe. You’re in “Amish Country” in Central Pennsylvania, Lancaster County. It’s a different world here. In Amish country, the daily hustle and bustle is traded in for the slower, more tranquil pace of life in the rejuvenating countryside. Here, the splendid choir of birds fills the air as the sounds of car traffic disappear and the natural, welcoming sounds of hooves and buggies appear. This is where you are enveloped by the endless and vibrant green pastures, where the sights of cattle peacefully grazing on endless real turf puts you at ease.

Perhaps it is this peaceful atmosphere of Lancaster County that attracts more than 9 million visitors annually, both domestic and international combined, aside from the major attractions and great shopping. Perhaps it’s because this rich countryside is primarily made up of the unique Pennsylvania Dutch Amish community, “the plain folk”. The Amish paint a uniquely self-sufficient and simple way of life, whose values and lifestyle shape the countryside of Lancaster County into what it is now, and who contribute to the $2.3 billion economic growth of the county. Tourists flock from all parts of the country and world to visit and learn about the Pennsylvania Dutch, to savor their mouthwatering Whoopie and shoofly pies, jams, jellies, and cheeses, and to shop at local Amish businesses–such as Isaac “Ike” Stoltzfus’ genuine leather goods shop, Forest Hill Leather Craft.

For the past 46 years, Ike has relished life in Lancaster County with his family and community, and 19 years ago, he decided to open up Forest Hill Leather Craft to produce leather goods using only 100% genuine leather. Ike and his two younger sons now run the business together. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ike and his sons and learning more about his business, and seeing for myself just how the Amish values and beliefs pervade every part of their life, including business. Ike’s workshop and store are located in the quaint ‘Bird-in-Hand’ area. Drive on Forest Hill Road too quickly and you will miss the only lawn sign identifying his business; there are no big billboards, signage, or attention-drawing lights. A charming abode, humble farm, and a rustic, A-framed shop make up Ike’s two-acre property which is surrounded by miles of serene countryside. Stepping through the single door into the shop, battery-operated lights and propane-fueled lamps dot the ceiling. Simple wooden shelves full of neat leather goods boast something for everyone. Bright, richly toned crossbody bags, handbags, wristlets, and elegant belts for the ladies; wallets, customized leather-wrapped mugs, and Ike’s infamous belts for the men; watch bands, leather-covered padfolios, laptop bags, and briefcases for the career-bound individual; various leather accessories for children and much more! Be sure to ask Ike about customizations and monogrammed accessories! Ike’s quality items are intricately designed as well as durable, boasting of his hours of fine craftsmanship. He provided me with a behind-the-scenes tour of his workshop located on the second floor. His workshop is simple; just a few pieces of equipment powered by batteries or propane adorn the space; the same type of lanterns and lamps on the first floor, dot the workshop ceiling, and the perfect amount of sunlight fills the shop during the day. Ike welcomes children and customers to tour the workshop, so remember to ask him for a tour if you plan on stopping by!

At Forest Hill Leather Craft, each product is a labor of love individually crafted with integrity, creativity, and care. Ike’s leather goods begin with a pure, simple ingredient–100% superior, genuine processed hide–that he gets from Wickett & Craig, a company that has been in business since the late 1800s and is located only 3 hours away from Ike’s shop. Turning raw hide into prime-grade genuine leather is a lengthy process, but the result is desirable high-quality material that lasts a lifetime! Ike uses only solid pieces of hide so you will not find a single item in his store made of partial leather or mixed synthetic materials. Leather goods purchased from Forest Hill Leather Craft are sturdy, will last you a lifespan, and will save you a lot of money on repairs and replacements. (Ike offers repairs for any leather goods, whether purchased at Forest Hill Leather Craft or elsewhere.) That day I took home a real leather crossbody bag that made me feel like a million bucks… which will save me a million bucks!

I wanted to learn more, so I asked away…

Q: What prompted you to start this type of business in Lancaster County?

A: “I worked at a harness shop in the area for 14 years, but most of the products were made of synthetic material. I thought it would be nice to work from home selling real leather and having my own schedule. I am not in the farming industry, and I don’t need a big farm to run a business. I like Lancaster, I have lived here for 46 years, and I have 2 acres of property. The tourists are here in Lancaster so I can make a living. This is home.”

Q: What is the story behind the name? Does your business have a vision and mission?

A: “The shop sits on Forest Hill Road where we make good leather products that last a lifetime. Our values, faith, and integrity shape the business.”

Q: What is your clientele, and can you identify your busiest season(s)?

A: “We get visiting tourists, and we have our local customers. The Amish do not wear belts. Our busiest season is the summertime, and after Christmas is the slowest.”

Q: What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered running your own business?

A: “Learning how to price products initially, especially with the changes in supply and demand. Growing the business too fast and not being able to catch up. Learning how to stack orders in order to deliver products on time. It can also be a challenge to balance home and work life.”

Q: Do you harness any type of modern technology for your business?

A: “We don’t rely much on technology, but we have several vendors who sell and ship belts. The less you use the better you are, but we do need to use a few things.”

Q: Part of your increase in visitation is due to word-of-mouth and print advertising. Walk us through your relationship with the Amish Country News (ACN) publication.

A: “We have been in business for 19 years and started advertising several years ago with a different magazine but felt ACN would be a better fit for us, and it was. The first small ad paid for itself, and it has increased our visitation. Advertising is good for tourists.

This is the seventh year we have advertised with the magazine.”

Q: What advantage(s) does a consumer have when buying from Forest Hill Leather Craft?

A: “There’s value in buying local. If you get something from overseas you may not have a warranty or be able to return it. We offer repairs on any leather products, whether purchased here at our store or elsewhere. We offer customizations on any product. You get to buy directly from the owner.”

Q: Where do you see Forest Hill Leather Craft in 5-to-20 years from now?

A: “I have thought about expanding but I don’t have any goals at the moment. For now, I will continue the business with my sons and hope that one day they will keep the business in the family”. Lessons from the leather: you put good in, you get good out; less is more; and there is much value in the simple. 

Ike and his business are symbolic to the Amish countryside, whose values and humble ways of life have shaped the area that keeps bringing back millions of tourists each year for a relaxing, rejuvenating experience. Getting to meet Ike and tour his shop was a neat experience, and learning about the plain ways in business provided great insight and is a good message. He kindly hosted me for several hours as we chatted away, and he permitted me to take photos of his products and the shop. Summertime is here and it’s both a beautiful and busy time for the Amish and Lancaster County. 

Be sure to add Forest Hill Leather Craft to your trip itinerary and stock up on Christmas gifts for your family. Ike offers delivery so that you can purchase your leather products from the shop’s e-commerce page,, which includes the latest catalog. His property is actually six miles north of the center of Bird-in-Hand, just a short jog north of Route 23 near the town of Leola. Easiest way to get there? Plug 225 Forest Hill Road, Bird-in-Hand, PA 17505 into your GPS, (717)-656-8758. So, next time you are on Forest Hill Road, don’t drive too quickly or you will have missed the leather shop, and remember to slow down, relax, and breathe… you’re in an Amish Country. 

— Natalie Osorio