A 43-year-old family-owned hardware store specializing in equipment for living without electricity is experiencing a dramatic spike in business thanks to fears over disruptions at the beginning of next year. Lehman's, with a massive one-acre indoor store, has traditionally sold the gear to Amish families, who shun electricity, and to missionaries going overseas.

Now these customers are forced to wait in line or do without, in the face of growing demand from those concerned about millennial survival, for orders on wood-burning stoves, gasoline-powered refrigerators, and grain mills.

A growing number of people believe the turn of the calendar will usher in a period of widespread power failures and possibly societal collapse (CT, Jan. 11, 1999, p. 58). In preparation, many are stocking up on food and water, as well as planning to live without electricity.

Through the Internet and a spate of Y2K preparedness speakers and book authors, Lehman's has been touted as a key supplier of necessary items. The store, privately owned by former Mennonite missionary Jay Lehman and his family, has enjoyed a steady stream of customers wanting a simpler, more self-reliant lifestyle, according to Glenda Lehman Ervin, Jay's daughter and communications manager for the firm.

"Our mission hasn't changed," Ervin says. "What has changed is what's going on around us. What we would like to say is, if people want to start a self-sufficient lifestyle, that's great—but don't do this because you're afraid."

Already the Lehman company, which had prided itself on quick turnaround on orders, is months behind in supplying some items, while others, such as a popular wood-burning stove, are sold out until the middle of 2000.

Lehman says the firm will easily double its normal sales volume this year. But he is concerned that newcomers to self-sufficiency are keeping phone lines tied up with questions.

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