UNITY — A man driving a horse and buggy makes a sharp right turn into a long, snow-blanketed drive that runs along the Amish Community Market and Bakery.

A blue sedan circles the drive to continue on its way on a mild winter morning. Pickup trucks with plows hanging off them follow the buggy’s path, with workers looking for fuel after getting through a nor’easter.

Couples exit with boxes and bags of different shapes and sizes. It is Wednesday, also known as “Donut Day,” at the market.

“Breakfast of champions,” Dana Waugh quipped as he headed back to his truck after plowing out some of Unity College’s property. “I’m addicted to their doughnuts. They really know how to take care of people. It’s like your corner store.”

Waugh, of China, regularly stops in for doughnut Wednesdays at the market. During the summer, fresh doughnuts are also served Saturdays.

Unity’s Amish community is one of nine Amish settlements in Maine, according to the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. Amish communities in Smyrna and Fort Fairfield came first, and more recently, a community took hold in Wales.

“Because they meet in their homes for worship, when the group gets too big to gather in the home or barn or something, then they divide in half,” said Donald B. Kraybill, a professor of Religious Studies at Elizabethtown College. “It’s not because it’s a schism. They normally do that so they can congregate everybody.”

A THRIVING COMMUNITY 

The Amish population in North America totals more than 350,000 with settlements across 31 states. Maine’s Amish population is 955, more than twice as large as it was a decade ago. Vermont is the only other New England state with an Amish community, and it numbers less than 100.

Sponsored by the Amish community in Smyrna, Caleb and Rosie Stoll set out for Unity in the fall of 2008. The only condition Smyrna put on the move was that the Stolls have to live within 150 miles of their former Aroostook County town. They chose Unity, about as far south as they could go, and have no regrets.

“We’ve felt welcome all along,” Stoll said.

The 40 children in the community attend school in the church meetinghouse. Children go to school for grades 1-8 and are taught by four women in their late teens and early to mid 20s. The community holds meetings every Sunday morning, where Stoll and three others in the ministry lead a service for approximately 175 people. Unity’s population is just over 2,000, so the Amish community makes up approximately 8% of the townspeople.

There are now 23 families in the community spread across 800 acres of land. The Amish families do pay taxes on their land. Unity officials said it is a common misconception that Amish do not pay taxes.

The Stolls and three other families run dairy farms. About 10 families grow and sell produce to suppliers, including Common Sense Farm right next to the bakery and community store.

Marc Anderson assists customers with doughnuts Wednesday at the Community Market General Store in Unity. Doughnuts are freshly made at the store every Wednesday morning. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Marc Anderson and his family moved to Unity four months ago from an Amish settlement in northern Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron. Things in Unity are similar to Hawks, Michigan, the Delaware native said, except that the Unity settlement is much more a part of the local community.

“As far as I know, it’s good,” Anderson said between ringing up customers. “In my experience, the people that tend to hang out here like us. The people who don’t want us here, we don’t tend to hear much about.”

In addition to the Amish Bakery and Community Store, a metal roofing shop, charcuterie store, natural foods store, engine shop and mini barn store are all owned by members of the Unity Amish settlement.

“They are capitalists, and they are very innovative and creative with businesses,” Kraybill said. “They like a small town atmosphere, and I think Maine feels good to them.”

At the community store especially, where Stoll is one of the co-owners, business is faring well. Canning materials fly off the shelves, as do most products related to homesteading. From work boots to plumbing supplies to kitchen basics, this store has it all.

“Basically, anything that has to do with country living, doing it yourself,” Stoll said.

Marc Anderson, right, assists Darcy Fritz, center, and husband Chip, of Morrill, as they purchase doughnuts Wednesday at the Community Market General Store in Unity. Doughnuts are freshly made at the store every Wednesday morning. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Stoll said the Amish Community Market and Bakery experiences the coronavirus pandemic “like everyone else.”

After a temporary closure in March, they began offering curbside service. As time went on, the store returned to its normal operations. The pandemic caused high unemployment levels everywhere, but Anderson had an interesting take.

“What people need to realize is a lot of people are sitting around and complaining about unemployment, but you’ve got to make a job,” he said.

BAKING UP A STORM 

With a “cookie disher” in her left hand, Rosalie Stoll is in rhythm. Take some dough with the right hand. Put it in the ice cream scoop-like contraption. Plop it on a baking sheet. JoEdna Beachy presses the dough flat. Few words are said, but the work gets done seamlessly.

Rosalie Stoll, left, and JoEdna Beachy, make chocolate chip cookies Wednesday in the bakery of the Community Market General Store in Unity. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

The same two words continuously ring silently through their minds: scooping cookies, scooping cookies, scooping cookies.

Rosalie Stoll, 17, arrived at the bakery at 3:45 a.m. There she met Beachy, 29, for a full day of baking. They started the day making 360 doughnuts including flavors such as glazed, maple cream and more. By 11:30 a.m. Stoll and Beachy expected to be putting the finishing touches on dozens upon dozens of cookies. After looking up at the clock to see that another hour had flown by, Stoll said time in the bakery goes by “pretty fast.”

Rosalie Stoll, one of Caleb and Rosie Stoll’s nine children, substituted at the bakery for another worker who was on a trip. Rosalie has seven sisters and one brother, and the siblings range in ages from 10-27.

JoEdna Beachy makes chocolate chip cookies Wednesday while working in the bakery of the Community Market General Store in Unity. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Beachy, who leads the bakery operation, moved to Unity about three years ago from Kentucky. She’s led the bakery charge for two years. Before moving to Unity, she had visited.

“I came up here to help with strawberry picking in the produce fields,” Beachy said before dunking her hands in water in preparation for a new flavor of cookies to work with. “I had friends here.”

The recipe book in the bakery is “a group effort,” Caleb Stoll said. In addition to the doughnut days, they bake breads, pies and lemon bars on Fridays.

SUPPORTING A SMALL BUSINESS

Along the busy Thorndike Road where Unity turns to Thorndike, Linda Fanjoy was one of the first people to stop by for doughnuts. Fanjoy, of Burnham, likes the $5 red and white checkered box filled with “Itty Bitties,” which are like doughnut holes, in addition to the maple, cream-filled doughnuts. Fanjoy said she loves the doughnuts, but also the service.

“They’re very welcoming, very polite,” she said.

Freshly made doughnuts are available every Wednesday morning at the Community Market General Store in Unity. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Paula and Gary Bolduc, of Winslow, take supporting small businesses personally. Paula’s workplace, owned by her family, closed during the pandemic. After more than two decades, Kennebec Fire Equipment in Winslow shut its doors.

“It’s good to get out and help any of the local businesses,” Paula Bolduc said. “We need to get out here and support the community.”

Darcy and Chip Fritz arrived in the late morning from Morrill. Chip Fritz joked he went out to get a new windshield for a snowmobile, but purposely made the trip on doughnut day. The Fritzes like to support the Amish Community Market and Bakery like any other business.

Darcy Fritz, right, carries doughnuts and Itty Bits doughnut bites as her husband, Chip, holds the car door Wednesday at the Community Market General Store in Unity. The Morrill couple and others were at the store to enjoy the doughnuts that are freshly made there every Wednesday morning. The pair said they were sharing the goodies with family and friends. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“I’ve never really considered it anything different,” Chip Fritz said.

“They’re just a part of the community,” Darcy Fritz added. “That’s it.”

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