It’s a short jump off the highway, but it’s a worthwhile detour when traveling north on I-75 in northwestern Ohio. About half way between Lima and Findlay, Bluffton, Ohio is a small community that still has a thriving Main Street. With a population of approximately 4,000, it’s one of those towns where you’ll likely get a warm greeting from each person you meet.

Bluffton was founded in 1832 by Swiss Mennonites and Irish Catholics. Originally called Shannon, it is now home to Bluffton University. Two of the school’s more famous students include Hugh Downs and Phyllis Diller.

Bluffton became famous in 1932 when John Dillinger drove into town, filled up his car with gas across from the Dari Freeze, and then proceeded to rob the Bluffton Bank of $6,000.

Things are much calmer now and people pay for what they want. Wandering pays dividends when you discover bigger than life murals on building sides.  Shopping opportunities abound.

Black Lab Trading Company is the place to go for collectibles, country & primitives, toys, scrapbooking, and children’s’ clothes. Allow plenty of time for browsing…and buying.

Across the street, there’s another shop called Groves Bears that looks to be the place to go for parents and grandparents, with Steif bears for adults and children.

Et Cetera is like opening a giant closet, with thousands of “gently worn” clothes and hats neatly arranged for easy browsing. Way in the back, there’s a variety of household items, games, videos and books to hunt through. When you find your bargain, it might only be 50 cents. Worth a look.

Deer Creek Shoppe is the local antique and collectable store at 124 Main.  They offer free antique appraisals throughout the year.

Bluffton, OhioTen Thousand Villages has a store at 111 Main and offers a wide selection of fair trade handicrafts, many of which would make unique gifts for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list.

If you’re hungry from all the shopping, Bluffton Dari Freeze is noted for their hot dogs.  “Best hot dogs east of the Mississippi” reads the sign, so it must be true. Rumor has it that their pork sliders are excellent also. With a choice of two-dozen different flavored shakes, you’ve got yourself a meal.

Coming up the day after Thanksgiving is the annual Blaze of Lights parade and Christmas lighting celebration.  (Watch the video for highlights from last year’s celebration.) But stop into Bluffton, Ohio anytime for a laid-back, nostalgic day of wandering and shopping.