The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

April 10, 2008

A portal to Ohio’s Amish Country

Conneaut family transforms a travel passion into e-commerce opportunity

It’s ironic but necessary: the culture that eschews modern ways needs an Internet presence to help tourists navigate Ohio’s Amish Country.

For almost two years, Stuart and Norma Watson of Conneaut have served as the liaison between these simple and complex worlds. The Watsons are founders of the Web site experience-ohio-amish-country.com, a portal to tourism and shopping experiences available in Ohio’s Amish communities. They research and maintain the site as a part-time venture they hope will eventually grow into something larger.

Stuart, who is principal of South Ridge Christian Academy and assistant pastor at South Ridge Baptist Church, says he and his wife have been visiting Amish Country destinations for more than two decades. The couple say they enjoy the reverent, simple lifestyle of the Amish, as well as the scenic beauty of their settlements, craftsmanship of their products, wholesomeness of their meals and comfort of their accommodations.

“You almost feel like part of the family when you go to these places,” Norma says. “That what appeals to us, because we’re all about families.”

Eager to share their experiences with family and friends, the Watsons often found themselves serving as travel counselors for others thinking about making a weekend trip to Holmes County. In June 2006 they decided to put their knowledge online.

“It seemed like a logical fit,” Stuart says, explaining how the Web site evolved from their travels. “We’ve been doing it so long, enjoying it so much, we thought why not do a Web site?”

They created the Web site from scratch using Sitesell.com, an e-commerce company that walks fledgling online entrepreneurs through the process of creating Web pages and positioning them on the Web for maximum exposure.

Putting this resource together has required hundreds of hours of research on Norma’s part. Stuart handles the technology side and does most of his work in the family room so his daughters continue to have access to him.

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