If you love the Green Dragon in Ephrata or the Bird-in-Hand Farmer’s Market, then you will go gaga over Root’s Country Market in Manheim, Pennsylvania. This is the least touristy of the three. Along with building after building of produce, meats, and other food-sellers, Root’s also boasts an auction house for livestock and a massive lot for a flea market that goes on as far as the eye can see. But these dealers are not selling new stuff, or a line of products. These are real people selling real antiques and other standard flea market items. Most of them are willing to haggle. You can actually get a good deal here. In fact, they’ll probably look at you funny if you don’t haggle.
I collect bar signs. In two visits to Root’s, I have left with one each time. Last year, I nabbed a nice old Budweiser sign for $10 while last Tuesday during my most recent visit, I found an interesting Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth print, which was also $10. Perhaps my best find was a 1961 Jim Beam Civil War centennial decanter which pictures Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army on one side, and Ulysses S. Grant’s Union forces on the other. The price? $3.
When you walk around the flea market and then head toward the buildings where the meats and produce are, you temporarily feel transported to another world. Yeah, I know— this isn’t some exotic, far-away land. It’s Pennsylvania. But getting a chance to see locals haggle and do their grocery shopping, all while interacting with the local Amish and Mennonite populations, is a pretty special experience. In a way, I feel like Green Dragon has lost some of this luster. Many of their outdoor dealers now sell mass-produced items. The “antique” aspect seems to be fading. I still love going there, but Root’s has just something in the atmosphere than not many of these country markets can match.
There are also plenty of places to snack at as you make your way through the complex. In the flea market portion, there was a food truck. For a mere $2.50 each, we bought egg and cheese sandwiches. Pardon me while rave about this simple and delicious meal. Not only did each sandwich have two perfectly fried eggs, but they also buttered and toasted the buns as well. The result was crunchy and creamy. We and I looked at each other in amazement. Pretty high quality stuff for the middle of a market. In one of the buildings, we stopped for some Amish-made pretzels. My friend had a stuffed Reuben pretzel log, which was excellent, while I opted for the cinnamon-sugar dusted pretzel sticks. There is also a fried vegetable stand we visited last year which was pretty good. Snacking and buying: just a little piece of Americana which will never go away.
Allow yourself at least two hours to view all that Root’s has to offer. You’ll probably be there far longer if you take time to explore every area. We did about three and half hours each time. They are only open on Tuesdays (just like Green Dragon is only open Fridays). Closing hours vary by season, but they open promptly at 7 a.m. Try to get there by 8:30 (or earlier) if you can. Many of the flea market dealers are packed up by noon and a lot of the good stuff will be gone by then. As for the buildings and other stands, you can check them out later.