When you visit us in Shipshewana you enter the world of master craftsman, Mel Riegsecker. A native of Northern Indiana Amish Country, Mel's father was an Amish harness maker, who taught Mel every detail of this ethnic skill. In 1970, for his own enjoyment, Mel created the first of his miniature wagons and six horse hitches with everything from manes to bridles authentically detailed. Mel's father displayed the handsome miniature in his shop for all to enjoy. To the surprise of father and son, the miniature was quickly purchased!
To accommodate the demand for his miniatures that followed, Mel continued to make more of the finely crafted horse and carriage miniatures, which were sold as quickly as they were finished. Eventually a buyer from a large department store in Chicago discovered Mel's work, and the rest is history!
As his reputation grew, Mel found that visitors enjoyed watching the crafters in his workshop, adjacent to his country home. However, due to a lack of space that wasn't always possible. So in 1984, Mel and June purchased and renovated an old factory building conveniently located at the 4 way stop in Shipshewana. They called it the Shipshewana Craft Barn. That was the beginning of Riegsecker's Blue Gate. As the Riegsecker's vision has evolved, additional shops, restaurants and a theatre have become a part of the marketplace. Today when you come for a visit, you can enjoy some of the best Amish/Mennonite cooking around, finely crafted solid wood furniture, crafts, home décor and much more.
The Marketplace is now a group of 4 retail stores, a restaurant, bakery, and cabinet seller. The retail stores offer some of the highest quality home décor in the country, many items made locally. They also carry the Riegsecker's own line of furniture created at local woodshops.
Riegsecker Hardwoods specializes in custom kitchen cabinets and are known for their custom built-in entertainment centers, fireplaces, and unique specialty jobs. The furniture is mainly displayed at the Farm House, and the cabinet showroom is located across from the Blue Gate with specialists if anyone needs a little help planning.
At Dad's Toys, another Marketplace store, the shelves are lined with literally hundreds of die-cast farm toys, banks, cars, trucks, and semis from ERTL, Spec Cast, First Gear, and others as well as Peter Stone and Breyer Model Horses. The store is also unique because it usually has a full size antique car and tractor for sale on its floor, as well as a miniature horse for the kids to see.
As the Marketplace continues to grow, the fastest growing part has been the Blue Gate Restaurant. When Mel first opened in the mid 80's the Blue Gate, formerly Der Strudel Haus, had 50 seats and one dining room. Over the years it grew to 105 seats and two dining rooms, but it was never big enough to accommodate the number of people who wanted to eat there. After 20 years the old Blue Gate was torn down and a new state-of-the-art facility was erected. The new Blue Gate Restaurant has 1200 seats, 9 dining rooms, a fully-functioning bakery and a theatre. As the Marketplace continues to grow the Blue Gate will be an integral key to its success.
Due to its location in the middle of Northern Indiana Amish Country and its proximity to the Flea Market, the largest in the Midwest, the Marketplace has become an enterprise that mainly serves the tourism industry. The Marketplace has become a draw for the Midwest and three of its largest markets: Chicago, Detroit, and Indianapolis. To better serve this industry the Marketplace has grown and evolved. The Blue Gate Carriage Co, and Blue Gate Theatre are just some of the services the Marketplace has added in response to this need. Carriages run daily to give visitors a taste of old-world transportation, and are also available for special occasions such as weddings, proms, and other events. The Blue Gate Theatre, home to the Midwest's best family friendly entertainment provides the much asked for evening entertainment to Shipshewana.
As the Marketplace continues to grow it will continue to play an important role in the growth and development of the community, as it has in the past. Currently a significant number of the staff comes from the community, which helps the Marketplace reflect the culture and values of the area. There is also a number of staff involved in local government and town development.