Lapp Family Market Opens in Latrobe
There has been a lot of buzz the last few months concerning the redevelopment of a property along route 30 east in Latrobe – about one half mile before the Kingston Bridge. Previously this time of year, West Christmas Trees would fill the parking lot with yuletide cheer. But this season, the site is busy with shoppers at the new neighborhood grocery, Lapp Family Market, specializing in bulk foods, whole foods, deli meats & cheeses, natural and gluten-free products and outdoor living. They also offer a large selection of delicious locally-sourced items, such as: honey, maple syrup, teas, milk and ice cream (by Moo Echo Dairy in Somerset), and free-range eggs. After a soft opening in August, their clientele grew steadily by word of mouth until the family celebrated a grand opening and ribbon cutting with the Great-er Latrobe-Laurel Valley Community Chamber of Commerce on October 17.
Facebook then exploded with county-wide curiosity and positive feedback about Lapp’s. Shoppers are in love with the products and prices (this writer included), and are telling everyone about the new “Amish” store. But the Lapp Family are actually progressive Mennonites, who do share a common Anabaptist lineage with the Amish. However, they are actually two distinct Christian groups (splitting in 1693 Europe, and settling in 18th century America). Mennonites share some beliefs with the Amish: a commitment to nonviolence and a desire to live simply as agricultural people.
“They believe in and require for membership a true spiritual experiences of the New Birth that Jesus said must be experienced to enter the kingdom of God and be saved. The power to be faithful in all things they hold must be from and by the Holy Spirit dwelling within. It should be noted that the use of modern things such as automobiles, electricity and telephones can be used by Mennonites with careful and proper control. But Mennonites do not find the use of radio or television to be for them since these are largely under the control of the carnal world and mostly harmful to true and pure spiritual living.” (jamesportmissouri.org)
Nonetheless, the careful use of computers and the internet are allowed, especially for business purposes, according to Javan Lapp, head of marketing for the family store. He explained that all such decisions are made within the local community based on accountability and the traditional values of family and their basic Christian faith.
Mennonites are taught to work in the family business at a young age, with an emphasis on hands-on experience (although there are no restrictions on education, both 1-12 and college). The entire Lapp Family–parents/owners Merv & Ina, and their children, ages 13-25–works in the market. Javan and his wife, Rosina, (parents of baby Arie), handle marketing; Kendall is the deli manager; Barbara is currently studying in Asia (but will join the family at year’s end); Brenda is the bulk food manager; Rhonda works as cashier and in the deli; and Keith Lapp is a cashier after school.
“Interaction with local people is definitely the highlight of this work,” says Javan. “We have a great base of local customers who we get to see regularly, and we look forward to expanding that customer base.”
The Lapp Family and other members of their Mennonite community moved to Latrobe in July 2012 to establish the Trauger Mennonite Church (formerly Forty Martyrs Catholic Church) on route 981. Merv Lapp is the pastor there to seven families who chose to move here after their community at Weavertown Amish Mennonite Church in Lancaster County became too large. The members there decided that some would look for new territory rather than build a bigger church house. All are welcome to services at TMC, which begins with a cappella singing and continues with bible study and a sermon. A school has been established with two teachers and twelve students ranging in grades from 1-11. Merv Lapp is also active in the Westmoreland County Meals on Wheels program.
This Thanksgiving, the Lapp Family looks forward to gathering round the table as a family for a traditional meal of roasht (bread filling with pieces of chicken or turkey, and gravy), board games (Settlers of Catan is a current community favorite along with dominoes and some homemade games), and giving thanks to God at a morning church service and throughout the day. Family is the cornerstone of their faith and lives. They enjoy cooking, baking, gardening and other traditional activities that can be done together.
What’s next for the family business? Kendall explained, “While we do envision growth in the future for Lapp Family Market, we want to make sure we can still offer quality service and products. To ensure this, we do not anticipate rapid growth in the near future. We value family, both ours and our customers’, and will grow as we see opportunities that will not negatively impact family. This being said, we do plan to start offering deli sandwiches (pre-made and made-to-order) in the near future (stay tuned to our Facebook page).”
Lapp Family Market
216 Kingston St