Settled by Mennonites from Pennsylvania after the American Revolution, this picturesque village of 1,400 located on the banks of the Conestoga River was originally called, Jacobstellel (" little town of many Jacobs"). Today, you experience some of that Mennonite life, sharing the roads with Old Order Mennonites who use horse-drawn buggies and wagons.
We walked St. Jacobs main street, King, where the parking is free and sampled some of the 100 shops, restaurants and attractions. Anchoring one end was the Old Mill, the original flour mill, now packed full with unique one-of-kind shops, plus a Maple Syrup Museum containing artifacts and a replica sugar shack, quilt gallery, electricity exhibit, and exhibit outlining the history of St. Jacobs. An excellent display of original items from Hollinger Hardware Ltd.,
the predecessor of today's Home Hardware, were fun to view. Home Hardware, an owner operated co-operative, is a Canadian success story which began in 1964, now with over 1,000 stores spread across Canada and employing 20,000 people.
At the Mennonite Story Interpretive Centre, we took a self-guided tour through this multi-media centre and learned about Mennonites and their
Old Order lifestyle, faith and history via entertaining videos and amazing images. (Suggested admission $4.00 per person.)
Hamel Brooms was a sweeping success since 1908, the last manufacturer of corn brooms in Canada. Owner John Davenport told me "We hand-make about 24,000 brooms a year and our best customer is our neighbour,
Home Hardware. They purchase 10,000 brooms a year."
We headed to one of our favourite eateries, Benjamin's Restaurant and Inn, a refurbished 1852 inn in the heart of St. Jacobs with hand-hewn beams and open fireplaces providing warm ambiance and the food tasty.
If you arrive on a Thursday or Saturday between 7 am and 3.30 pm, take in the St. Jacobs Farmers' and Flea Market, just outside town. The market pulses with energy. Even on the rainy day that we visited, this indoor/outdoor market was bursting at the seams with wall-to-wall people, and if you don't like crowds, you might want to stay away. The market sells just about everything.
There's plenty of fresh fruit ($5.00 for five pints of delicious fresh strawberries), vegetables, honey, apple cider, dairy products, prime meats, preserves, artesian breads, jewelry, crafts, wooden furniture, and work-wear just to list a few.
We saw Old Order Mennonites bringing homegrown produce, crafts and preserves to the market by horse & buggy. There's also plenty of ready-to-eat foods available at snack-bars and restaurants. After an hour here, we realized why this is Ontario's largest farmers market.
Farmers Market, St. Jacob, Waterloo
Mennonites of St. Jacobs
George Bailey contributes to Sun Media's 43 paid-circulation newspapers across Canada as well as numerous magazines. George has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, Canada AM, The Discovery Channel, and Live with Regis and Cathy Lee. He has published five books on Niagara Falls.