Celebration will honor 60-year employee at Calef's

Union Leader Correspondent
September 06. 2017 10:20PM

Joel Sherburne is in charge of the cheese department at Calef's Country Store, where he has been employed for 60 years. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

There will be a free celebration for Joel Sherburne at Calef's Country Store in Barrington on Saturday. Sherburne is an institution in town, known as the man who cuts the cheese. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

BARRINGTON — Calef’s Country Store at the intersection of routes 9 and 125 has been the center for social activity in the town of Barrington since 1869, and they are celebrating one special employee this week.

Joel Sherburne grew up in Barrington, and started working at the store when he was in high school. Sixty years later, Sherburne is still employed at Calef’s, and has become a local institution, known as the man who cuts the cheese.

Proprietor Greg Bolton said managing the cheese department is a big task. Cheese makes up 20 to 25 percent of sales year-round, and at the holidays that percentage goes up.

Foot traffic at the country store keeps all the employees on their toes, with an average of 8,000 to 10,000 people coming into Calef’s every month. During the month of December, that number is doubled to 20,000 shoppers, Bolton said.

Sherburne said even though times have changed, and Barrington’s population has grown, he loves his job and being a member of the local community. On Wednesday, Sherburne explained how he worked his way up in the company.

“The first thing I did here when I got here was stock shelves. And then from stocking shelves, I packaged merchandise because we bagged a lot of different things at that time. Then one thing led to another from that, and from packaging I went into the meat department. At that time, we cut steaks and whatever, and I worked in the meat department for a while,” Sherburne said.

When the store’s owner realized Sherburne could cut cheese quickly and precisely, he was put in the cheese department.

“I can remember way back, some Sundays, we would have a 35 or 40-pound wheel of cheese and on a Sunday afternoon, we’d go through about eight or nine of them. I would cut steady. A line would be waiting out here to fill the orders and it got so that some would say, ‘I’d like a piece,’ ‘I’d like a slice,’ ‘I’d like a chunk’ like that. So, I made up an imaginary sign on the post and if somebody came in and they wanted a slice, they might get a half a pound. If they wanted a chunk, they might get a pound and a half, and it was kind of neat,” Sherburne said. “They took what I cut, no questions asked.”

Sherburne said he still looks forward to coming into work in the morning because Calef’s has maintained its country store charm throughout the decades.

“I love to see people come in the store for the first time, and they’ll open that door, and a smile will come over their face, and so many have said to me, ‘I can’t believe this. It brings back so many memories.’ It’s wonderful,” Sherburne said.

Bolton said he appreciates Sherburne’s dedication to the company.

“He’s a unique guy. He’s found a place that makes him happy,” Bolton said.

In the book “Sixty Years of Cuttin’ the Cheese” by Rebecca Rule, which is filled with “Joelisms” and stories about Sherburne’s experiences at Calef’s, Bolton said Sherburne used to work seven days a week, but has cut back to five in recent years.

“It is common for him to stop in on his days off and be sure we are all set. If he sees something amiss he will don his trademark white apron and get us caught up. That is who he is,” Bolton wrote in the introduction.

The Barrington Post Office on Mallego Road will celebrate Sherburne’s 60 years of employment at Calef’s Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a keepsake picture postmark.

Postmaster Susan Langley said the picture postmark is free.

“We will apply the postmark on any envelope that has proper postage, making it a first-class souvenir of the day,” Langley said.

The postmark features a wheel of cheese. On Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m., there will be a free fete at Calef’s Country Store to celebrate Sherburne’s dedication to the company. Calef’s Country Store is at 606 Franklin Pierce Highway.

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