So, we popped Kettle Corn in Pinecraft Florida for 2 months this winter. How in the world did that happen?
I went into this whole corn popping business ‘kicking and screaming’ and for sure never dreamed I would be setting up in the middle of Pinecraft, selling popcorn!
Pinecraft is a little village in Sarasota, Florida. A very unique village.
I blame this ‘Pinecraft popping experience’ on Tim’s brother Mike. He lives in Sarasota, Florida.
This is Mike with his wife Ruby and their grandchildren.
Mike told Tim a year ago, he needs to come to Sarasota between Christmas and New Year and pop at a large Volleyball Tournament they have at the Fair Grounds every year. Tim looked into it and was accepted to pop there. We made plans to do just that.
When Tim’s nephew Mike (yes, Tim has a brother Mike, and we have 3 nephews called 'Mike Sommers.' It can be confusing!) found out we were going to Florida, he offered to bring his very large, very nice camper trailer to Florida for us to live in and said, ‘You could stay all winter, use it for however long you want! We won’t need it back until summer!’
I want to brag about our nephew Mike for a bit. His very generous offer, bothering to take the camper down to Florida for us, and going back down in March, after we came home, to pick it up again . . I mean, who does that, or even has time to do it? Such generosity is rare.
(Allow me go on a little rabbit trail here. Our nephew Mike lost his mom Esther to cancer when he was just a little guy. He and his brother Brendan would come to our house after school, until their dad picked them up on his way home from work. Sometimes they would stay for the night.
When I protested to Mike about the inconvenience of taking the camper to and from Florida, he looked at me and said, ‘Mary, let me do this! I ate so many graham crackers at your house when I was a kid, this is one way I can repay you for that.’
Oh. My. Word! I mean, there is no comparison! But, that is Mike and his lovely wife Cheryl. I could tell you many, many more stories about them. Just the nicest couple ever.)
Let me tell you, Tim was not going to refuse that offer! ‘Let’s go for 2 months! We have a place to stay,, and Mary, we could look around for a place to pop while we’re there!’
I hate change. I hate to find new places to pop! I like to pop at the Flea Market and the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market, where I feel comfy and the people know us and are excited to see us! This ‘new’ stuff, I don’t like it at all.
But, as I said before, I like Tim, so I go popping with him. And, it has taken me to places I never knew about! The picture below obviously found us at a Big Foot Festival! It was an amazing day!
Back to our adventure in Florida. Tim was beyond excited. We packed up and off we went. Tim’s nephew Mike, brought down that big camper of his, all the way from Raleigh, N.C. and parked it at Tim’s brother Mike’s spacious estate, where he and his wife Ruby live, and we were ‘set’ for 2 months.
Mike and Cheryl, handing over their camper to us!
Now, I would have been very excited about being in Florida for 2 months, if the ‘looking for a place to pop’ wouldn’t have been hanging over me!
We knew Joe and Wilma Hostetler, who owned an ice cream shop, Wilma’s Big Olaf Creamery, right in the heart of Pinecraft. Tim was thinking of asking them if we could pop there. I of course was doubtful, throwing in my angst about asking them, saying we will probably put them on the spot if they have to say no. Tim does not think the way I do. I mean, ‘all they have to say is ‘no’ and then we’ll look somewhere else!’ was Tim’s reply. I knew he was planning to ask.
You wouldn’t believe what happened. We are in Florida for only a few days, popping corn at the Volleyball Tournament, and just who do you think came walking up to our tent?
Joe and Wilma Hostetler!
Immediately I got nervous, because I knew Tim would ask them then and there, just right out, if we could pop at Big Olaf. Bracing myself, I suddenly wanted to go somewhere else, anywhere, so I wouldn’t have to hear it.
But, before Tim could even say anything, Joe said with a smile on his face, ‘You should come pop at Big Olaf!’
I about fell over. I couldn’t believe my ears and Tim was like, ‘Oh really? We were trying to think of a place where we could set up!’ acting like it had been no big deal between us, like maybe we had never even thought about their place.
We ended up popping at Wilma’s Big Olaf Creamery 3 days a week, right in the heart of Pinecraft for 2 months!
First, I must tell you, there is no place like Pinecraft!
Some of you reading this may not know Pinecraft or what it is. I will explain.
Tim and I were raised Mennonite, both our parents grew up Amish. It is a lovely and unique culture and I will always treasure my upbringing. It’s obviously a very close-knit community and although Mennonites and Amish are very different from each other, to people who aren’t from this culture, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell a difference between the two. Many will call both denominations Amish.
Back to Pinecraft. There is a detailed history of how it started and all, which I am sure is very interesting, but I will skip that. Pinecraft has become a Mennonite and Amish community where snow birds come for the winter, and 100’s more come for vacation.
This ‘little’ community is nestled on either side of Bahia Vista St. filled with houses, large and small, old and new, on little streets filled with golf carts, 3 wheel bikes, kids on scooters and hoverboards, and lots of people walking.
(the pictures below and a few more posted, I borrowed from Katie Troyer with permission, who has many wonderful pictures of life in Pinecraft. Check her out on Facebook)
Within this community are two ‘Amish cooking’ restaurants, Yoder's Restaurant and Der Dutchman, both very busy, with locals and the hundreds of people who come to Pinecraft to spend a week or two, or stay the winter.
Pinecraft now has a brand new Hotel that also helps accommodate all these people. The Carlisle Inn sits along side Der Dutchman.
Right in the middle of Pinecraft there is the intersection of, Bahia Vista St. and Kaufman Ave. which connects both sides of this little community. On one corner is Wilma’s Big Olaf Creamery. Behind it is Emma’s Village Pizza, with a large deck for outside dinning and right beside that, is where Tim and I set up our tent to pop Kettle Corn.
Across the street is a Market and Deli with fruits and vegetables and about anything else you want to eat. This is the middle of it all, and always, people everywhere.
There are busses that travel from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, directly to Pinecraft, with hundreds of Amish people and others. Many of them stay right there, in that little community.
Its always a big 'occasion' when the busses arrive, or leave, making for large gatherings of people to see who arrived, or who is leaving.
This is where I found myself for the winter, all because my husband loves to pop corn! I was so anxious about it at first, only because I had to do something new, but it turned out to be a wonderful 2 months!
And incredibly interesting to say the least!
The people in Pinecraft are my ‘peeps.’ Because I grew up the way I did, I understand the culture, and I speak the German dialect they use which is my mother language. (We call it Pennsylvania Dutch) And, you will always be able to connect with someone you randomly meet. Just ask where they are from, or who their mom or dad are and invariably you will know of them or probably be distantly related, or, know people they know. That is just the way it is.
There is also a large Mennonite community of people who live in Sarasota all year. Four of Tim’s brothers and their families live there, and a lot of friends we grew up with in Ohio who have now moved to Florida are there. And then, there are the masses of people who come down for a week or two during the winter months. The clientele coming to our tent to buy popcorn, needless to say, were mostly Mennonite and Amish and other people we knew.
However, we also met many people from the area, who come to shop in this delightful ‘little’ big village. They mingle with my peeps, shopping over at the Market across the street, or getting their ice cream and Pizza right beside us. All this made for lots of traffic going by our tent, and along with the smell of popcorn billowing in the air, made people hungry for a snack. We even had regulars! One lady came by and said, 'I could smell you from a couple streets over! I just had to come and have some!' Our smell definitely sells!
During lunch and dinner times, the Pizza Deck would be full, with families, couples, friends meeting to eat, or some waiting to pick up carry out, always a lot going on! There were the most adorable elderly Amish ladies, who would come for lunch at Emma's Pizza with other friends and sit on the deck right beside us and have a great time visiting. They would talk Pennsylvania Dutch, and since I understood them, they made my day more fun too. I would have loved to go join them!
There were young Amish dads who would bike up to get pizza on their electric 3 wheeled bike. Some had these fancy carrier/wagons they pulled along behind with the cutest little kids in them! They would get a couple pizza's to go and they would fit perfectly in a space behind the kids in that carrier. Then off they went, the cute little kids looking back at me, just staring because I was waving at them. Once in a while, one would bravely wave back. I always looked forward to 'dinner time' because the place would be crowded, bikes parked everywhere, golf carts parked among the few cars, and people standing around waiting on their orders, always talking with others waiting. It was the perfect place for people watching and that we did!
A few times we were surprised to see our cousins in the crowd, who we rarely get to see because they live in other states. How fun to see them in Pinecraft, this melting pot for 'our kind!'
Let me add this,, the nicest people you have ever met! About every time we popped, we met a ‘new’ person to connect with and have made so many new acquaintances and friends!
I want to introduce you to these 2 gals. They live in Pinecraft year round. Everytime we were popping we would see them go by, or they would stop in. This day they both happened to be there at the same time!
The gal on the left is Katie Troyer. Everybody knows Katie! She may be small, but is a very big presence in this community! She was one of the first to stop at our Kettle Corn tent to ask about us and bought a bag of popcorn. She didn’t have to introduce herself, because I already followed her on Facebook, loving the pictures she takes of life in this Pinecraft Village. Because her residence is Pinecraft, she captures in pictures the uniqueness of this place. ( a big thank you to Katie for allowing me to use some of her pictures) I told her one day, if Pinecraft would have its own Mayor, she'd be the one for the job! Katie Troyer, follow her on Facebook.
On the right is Barb Coblentz. She came up to our tent one day, we did not know her and she said, ‘Hi Tim and Mary!’ I was surprised, looking at her with a question on my face, trying to remember if we had met before when she smiled and said, ‘I live beside your sister in law, Linda. She told me I should come meet you!’
We became friends! She would come up to the tent often, just to chat. She gets around in her motorized chair which she depends on due to MS that put her there. She was the most upbeat person in spite of the fact she has to deal with this disease on a daily basis. I was inspired by her attitude, that she definitely hasn’t let this get her down. She is out and about, enjoying the sunshine, stopping to chat with other Pinecrafter’s and the many ‘extras’ that are invading this time of the year. And, this is amazing,, Barb and her husband bought land in S.C. along with their son and are moving in the next year or two, and will live about 45 minutes from our house! We are both looking forward to that! I will always be grateful to have met her.
We got to know this very nice man, the one in the green shirt on the right. I am sorry I can't remember his name, but he would come by about every time we popped to sit on the Pizza deck with other guys. One day he stopped and asked if he could buy a dollar’s worth of popcorn. We don't have a $1.00 size bag so Tim made up a small bag for him. After a while he came back with a mischievous grin on his face and asked for another one. Tim gave him a 3.00 bag with a dollar off and told him not to tell anybody. (smile) He became a regular, always getting his 2.00 bag and told us if we ever come to Lancaster PA to look him up, that he would take us out to lunch! We would love that!
I’d always ask the customers where they were from. One day a mom stopped by with 3 cute kids. While she was digging in her purse for money, I asked where she was from. ‘Ft. Lauderdale.’ She answered.
‘What brings you over to this side of Florida?’ She looked up at me from digging in her purse and then looked over at the Pizza deck which was full of people dinning, looked up towards the Ice Cream Shop which was loaded with lots of people on 3 wheel bikes or waiting in line, and then looked over to the Market across the street, ‘This,’ she motioned with her head, still digging for change, ‘We happened upon this place a couple years ago and every winter since, I bring my kids back here to experience culture!’ She smiled and said, ‘They love it, we stay a couple days!’ She was definitely experiencing it!
There was a parking lot right in front of us. One day a man pulled up and came walking up to the tent looking quite excited! I was trying to remember if he had been there before. He reached for the Jumbo size bag and holding it up said, ‘I finally found you!’ I smiled, he seemed really excited! I said, 'Oh? Do you live here in Pinecraft?’ ‘No ma’am,’ he replied all out of breath, ‘I was just driving through and saw a man on the sidewalk carrying a big bag of Kettle Corn and I wanted one too! I drove up and down these streets till I found you! I love Kettle Corn!’ Well, that was a fun story!
One evening two of the cutest little ladies came up to the tent. They had come out of a car parked in front of us, and two men waiting in it. They each wanted a bag of popcorn and then giggled, looking at each other and then back at me. I smiled too, they seemed to be ready to share a joke or something. The one lady said, ‘Would you mind if I ask for an empty bag?’ I immediately reached into the drawer and handed her one. The other lady kind of elbowed her friend and then looked at me and said sheepishly ‘Can I have one too?’ as they giggled some more. I was laughing with them by now and the first lady said, ‘We are going to the Theater and we want to sneak in our own popcorn. With these extra bags we can each have our own!’ I laughed with them, smiling because I have done the same, taking in a bag of Kettle Corn to mix with the salty movie popcorn. Its delish!
And then there is Emma. She owns the Village Pizza Shop right there beside us. We fell in love with her immediately, along with all those who work for her. We would give them left over popcorn at the end of the day, and she’d give us pizza! She'd come out during slow times to chat, and we would share ‘stories.’ She also has the best pizza ever and her burgers are to die for! Wings too! During busy days, she always had a line out the door, people waiting to order their meals, then sit around on the deck or stand on the sidewalk in front of us, talking with others who were waiting.
Emma would call out names from the window by the deck when someones order was ready. Sometimes they didn’t hear their name because of all that was going on, so Emma would call it out again, sometimes in Pennsylvania Dutch with a big smile on her face, for example, ‘Roy Masht!’ (I made up the first name because I can’t remember what it was, but the last name was Mast) She made ‘waiting for your pizza’ fun! The people were too busy visiting with others that were waiting, probably playing the ‘Mennonite game’ (which is asking where they are from or who their parents are,, trust me, they ALWAYS find a connection. Its wonderful fun!)
These two women were a hoot! They were locals who were shopping at the Market and came over to our tent, because they smelled popcorn. I did not know them, had never met them. I asked what they get at the Market, and the one lady held up a box of candy saying, 'This is what I buy there, have one!’ She offered. When I hesitated, she insisted again I have some, ‘Just don’t take any red or green ones, I want those!’ she said. I laughed, saying that I want the purple ones. I told them I like to take pictures with customers that make my day. They were glad to pose with me!
This is Arlene. She came by one Saturday taking pictures of Pinecraft and the people, doing a documentary of this very interesting area for a school project. She was such a delight to talk to and we also became friends. She was from Tampa and said she will be back the next week. She did come back and we got to know her a bit more. Thankfully Facebook helps us stay connected. She loves to travel, and I love to follow people who travel, because that is my favoritest thing.
It was very fun when our family and friends would stop in to chat. Tim set up extra chairs in our little area so they could stay awhile. We'd have a ball!
Tim's brother Mike stopped by with his grandkids and Krystle, their mom, who wanted them see how Uncle Tim pops corn!
Tom and Kathy, our best friends from when we both lived in Ohio, who now live in Florida, came out a few times to spend the evening at our tent. Mike and Ruby brought their grandkids up one night and had an 'Emma's Pizza picnic' right by our little corner.
I have often enjoyed a good Acai Bowl, but in Florida, I was introduced to a Pitaya Bowl when the local Detwiler's Farm Market handed them out for free at the Volleyball Tournament we popped at. You could choose between the Acai or Pitaya. With its beautiful pink color, and the delicious fruit piled on top I decided to try Pitaya! I was hooked immediately! I won't tell you how many I ate over the two months we were in Florida! One day my friends, Marie and Elaine stopped by the tent when we were popping, announcing they were going to go get a Pitaya Bowl! I did not hesitate when they invited me to go along! The bowl is just that good, as was the company!
This picture isn't too clear, but one chilly evening we all happened to be on the Pizza deck, Andy and Elaine Byler, Fanni Schlabach, Marie and Glen Miller, Alfred and Miriam Raber and my sister Ruth and her husband Olin.
Added to all the popcorn popping, was the fun of going to the beach, walking the bridge, Marina Jack to see sunsets, and dining out with family and friends. My sister Ruth and Tim’s sister Sharon were in Sarasota with their husbands for 2 weeks and we loved spending time with them. It was endless fun and always something to do.
I even got to do a Forever 29 book signing at Der Dutchman Restaurant! My dear friend Kathy came to sit with me because I was nervous! Again, I met some of the most wonderful people, some who have also lost children, or wanted the book to give to a friend who had.
Tim even played softball in a 50 and over league. He loved it! A lot of the Amish will ride their bikes all the way up to 17th St. where the ball fields are to watch the games.
It was lots of fun when the Over 50 League played 2 games against the Amish! The place was packed out and made for much excitement. Even the local newspaper reporter was there! The Amish, who don't play in leagues, were really good! You should have seen them hit that ball and run those bases!
So, something I dreaded so badly turned out to be a load of fun. Isn’t that how it often is? This whole Kettle Corn thing has really taught me that!
God willing we want to go again next year!
I am a wife, a mom, and grandma to my 3 Boova. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, niece and friend.
Most importantly, I am a child of the King, my Savior, who I love and thank everyday, for life, the endless blessings showered on us, and the awesome world we live in.
I love to travel, read, bike and hike. I love to write about the people I meet, the places I’ve traveled to, , and about this beautiful world which is an endless discovery!