His 15-year-old daughter, Martha, works by his side, preparing beltsgenerally sold to wholesalers, shoe-repair shops, and harness shops. Thisis the way of the Old Order Amish, who avoid much of today's technology.
Yet the belts that Wengerd crafts so painstakingly in the old wayare now for sale on the Internet.
R.W. Leather, of Walnut Creek, is one of eight Amish vendors linkedon the world wide web by Orrville-based Spectrum Publications at the website amishshoppingmall.com.
"The Amish don't adapt to new methods. They shun modernism,"Wengerd said while showing off his handiwork and the templates used toput designs on belts. "For me to go on the Internet, personally, Iwouldn't do it. But [the Spectrum representative] is a wholesaleaccount, and how he markets them is his decision, whether it's throughthe Internet or stores."
Mitch Naumoff, webmaster at Spectrum, said Wengerd was the firstAmish businessman to agree to sell through his website, which offerseverything from homemade noodles and jam to small wood products, cedarchests, and handmade quilts. But Naumoff was rejected by a number ofAmish who didn't understand the concept of not having to pay for aservice that is intended to increase their sales.
"It's very intimidating for a lot of them, just the idea ofbecoming involved in this new technology," Naumoff said. The websitewas launched in February with 150 products, and plans are in the worksto have 300 products by the end of the year.
Old Order Amish people believe that the Bible instructs them to leada life of simplicity.
They also believe it directs them to maintain a distinct separationbetween the church and the world. They've chosen to refrain from many forms of technology and other cultural changes in an effort to maintain cohesivefamily structures and stay true to their faith.
All the Amish vendors now participating in amishshoppingmall.comhave been advertising for years in Spectrum Publication's AmishHeartland magazine, which targets tourists. The company plans to marketthe site this year on the web and various other media throughout thecountry.
Iva Yoder, manager of Helping Hands Quilt Shop & Museum in Berlin, Ohio,said she decided to sell quilts on the new site because it's anopportunity to share with the world the art of hand quilting. Pricesrange from $150 for a 30-by-30-inch quilt, to $1,200 for a queen- orking-size quilt that generally takes 500 hours to complete.
Verna Schlabach, assistant director of the Mennonite InformationCenter in Berlin, likens Amish people's decision to sell online to thesame justification that permits them to hire someone to drive them in acar.
"It eliminates temptation to go places that they don't need to goto if they hire a car," she said. "With this technology, they have thebest of both worlds." They can sell their goods to an expanded market,but they can avoid unnecessary temptation to worldliness, she said.
Amishshoppingmall.com. is one of dozens of Amish-themed sites,although the vast majority only provide information about the Amish andhandcrafted items they make.
Marvin Wengerd, owner of Carlisle Press in Walnut Creek and adistant cousin of Roy Wengerd, is one of the vendors onAmishshoppingmall.com who hopes to increase sales through the newInternet venture. He already has a huge following for his 16 Amish booksand two magazines, which are sold in 26 countries and every state in theUnited States. Carlisle Press has also sold several hundred books toAmazon.com in the past year.
"Though we elect not to have a presence on the Internet ourselves,our philosophy is to sell every book we can to everybody we can," saidWengerd. "So with that in mind, that dictates that if Spectrum wants tosell books online, we want to sell books to them."
So far, about a third of the products on the new site come from Mrs.Miller's Homemade Noodles, a 26-year-old Amish-Mennonite business thatprimarily sells noodles, jams, and salsa to bulk food stores andsupermarkets in Amish and Mennonite communities.
Owner Leon Miller said he sees the Internet site as a way ofeventually expanding his market. "They say more and more people aredoing business on the Internet. You read about it all over the place,"Miller said.
Beltmaker Roy Wengerd is also optimistic that the Internet willbroaden his market. He rides his bicycle to a phone booth to checktelephone messages for some of his wholesale orders, and he'll get hisInternet orders the same way. But he hasn't changed his way of thinkingwhen it comes to his craft.
"I tell people if they're interested in buying quality, I can helpthem," he said. "If not, go elsewhere."