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Explore Orleans County

Spend a day or two in canal country

The New York State Thruway heading east from Buffalo may be one of the most boring stretches of roads around. In spite of that, it can lead to some of Western New York’s jewels. Taking Exit 48A and heading north on route 63 will lead you to Medina, in the western part of Orleans County. This small city has undergone a transformation from a once-bustling center years ago to its present rebirth with small shops and restaurants dotting Main Street.

Some years ago, I had lunch in the Shirt Factory Café (115 W. Center Street). As with so much in Western New York, there is a bittersweet feeling to the beautiful edifice: Until the early part of this century, the building was home to R. H. Newell and Company, which made high-end shirts for fancy men all around the world, including even Winston Churchill. Now, of course, the factory has been shuttered, and replaced by a cute restaurant that serves fresh sandwiches, salads and an extensive array of teas and coffees while commemorating the building’s history with photos and displays. Music is offered Saturday evenings, along with wine and tapas, and movie/dessert packages are available at other times. Check out the website ( for more information.

Around the corner from the Shirt Factory Café, delicious confections and truffles (yes, they have sponge candy) are found at Della’s Chocolates (512 Main Street). The friendly owner will not only run out to give your dog a treat, but is pleased to share the area’s history with you and point you toward worthwhile attractions. A walk down Main Street offers a chance to browse in a bookstore and indulge at a bakery, as well check out the racks at a lily & a sparrow, a woman’s boutique with exquisite clothing. Zambistro (408 Main Street) is an upscale dining spot serving lunch and dinner at very reasonable prices. 530 West Avenue is the home of the Medina Railroad Museum, where a freight depot has railroad artifacts, model trains, and passenger train rides on a 1947 Budd Passenger Coach. Thomas the Tank Engine made an appearance in May.

Orleans is a rural county and much remains to be seen on its country roads. Exiting Medina traveling north on Route 63, pick up Ridge Road (Route 104), running east and west, where lots of interesting things can be found in both directions. Jeddo Mills Antiques (10267 Ridge Road) is a favorite of many Buffalonians. The space is arranged beautifully, the owner is creative and helpful, and the prices just right. Leonard Oakes Winery and LynOaken Farms are at 10609 Ridge Road. For a couple dollars, red and whites can be sampled while enjoying panoramic views of the farm in the winery’s tasting room; there are winery tours and a gift shop.

In such a profoundly agricultural area, there are more farms and farm stands than can be counted. Fresh produce, baked goods, and pick-your-own opportunities abound. You can even find alpaca to pet. The Amish have a strong presence, too, and at 10858 Ridge Road is Miller’s Bulk Food and Bakery. Flours, beans, soup, cheese, pickled goods, nut butters, and home-baked pies and breads—the variety is amazing. Depending on how you are feeling, you might want pick up a bottle of Yoder’s Good Health Recipe, “an invigorating and therapeutic blend,” “good for what ails you.”

Leaving Miller’s and heading east on Ridge Road toward Albion, the style of housing will grab your attention. Cobblestone home after cobblestone home dots the landscape, reflecting the geologic uniqueness of the area. Striking in its simplicity and complexity, this unique masonry is celebrated at the Cobblestone Society Museum (14393 Ridge Road), where a cobblestone house, church, and school are waiting to be explored.

This is a farming county, replete, of course, with barns. Fifty of these barns have quilts painted on them. Partyka Farms (1420 County Line Road) in Kendall is not only a farmers market (this large farm supplies Wegmans with some produce) but is the place to go for maps of the Country Barn Quilt Trail. Stop at the farm for ice cream, use their grills to make lunch, or pick some seasonal fruit. Then strike out by car or bike to see the vibrant painted quilts marking the countryside.

A day trip to Orleans County could very well turn into a week, if you take advantage of the rewards its proximity to water offers. It’s part of the Seaway Trail, borders Lake Ontario, and is home to the Erie Canal. You can spend your day luring trout and salmon to your pole or kayaking or hiking along the water. Time for some fun!

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