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Calef's Country Store Having a 150th Birthday Party


Mary Chesley Calef mortgaged her family farm in 1869 and pledged her savings to open Calef's Store in the front rooms of her modest home in Barrington NH just after the end of the Civil War.

Five generations of the Calef family operated Calef's Big Store until the 1990s, including Mary's son, Senator Austin Calef. Today Calef's Country Store serves the local community and visitors from afar, keeping the traditions that Mary Calef founded the company on 150 years ago.

Len Angelo and Greg Bolton, the current owners have been in the business since 2012. They recently renovated Calef’s famous deli and added-on a rear expansion that increased the size of the storage room added a loading dock and shipping area and created previously non-existent space for employees, increasing the business’s footprint by 25 percent.


For visitors from far, far away that continue to come back, time and time again, nostalgia really sets in when you step foot through the very old doors into Calef’s Country Store. You can take a step back to a simpler time when customer service wasn't a gimmick, but the way things were done. The wood floors creak with stories of lore, the woodstove warms passersby, and the aroma of fresh-baked bread and donuts entice even the healthiest of folks. The first impression many new customers have when they see Calef’s for the first time is “Wow – what a cool old-fashioned fun place!” When customers are in the store, they don’t feel like they’re in a big retail store. Instead, they feel like they’re in someone’s home business set back in the 1870s.

People keep coming back to Calef’s because of the nostalgia associated with the location, which makes every trip feel good for them. The faster the world goes, the more places like this resonate, because they’re not smartphone-driven – it just feels good to keep coming back here. People that are from the local communities that have visitors from out of town like to bring them here to show them this piece of New Hampshire history, because they love the products - including the cheeses, deli sandwiches, maple syrup, pickles, and ginger snaps.

Each year, the New Hampshire maple industry produces close to 90,000 gallons of the best maple syrup in the country from mid-February to mid-April. Calef’s sells its own brand of syrup, maple candy & sweets, maple drizzle, and glass bottles from other New Hampshire producers. You can taste the difference that prosecutes the case that NH’s local maple sugaring producers have a superb love for the craft, unlike Vermont or Quebec. Part of the trade secret of New Hampshire’s maple trees is the perfect climate for perfection – not too hot, and not too cold.

There’s nothing at Calef’s that you can’t get somewhere else, but you can’t get the same atmosphere elsewhere. It doesn’t feel the same if you purchase it from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Present and past customers connect with the Calef’s brand at home through the commonly themed old-fashioned good feeling website. One of the biggest challenges is keeping the feeling that you get with purchasing from Calef’s in everything that is shipped around the world. The website developers had to come to the store, and they had to make the website feel like the store. It’s not the fastest, most streamlined website, but it looks and feels just like the store.

According to store co-owner, Greg Bolton, there’s no way to really know if the website has improved the store’s relationship with its core customers because most everything that is sold by Calef’s is sold through the store’s physical location. But they now have space available to package and ship large quantities of orders in the back – there’s a lot more business that could be done through Calef’s website.

Calef's has been buying and selling local-produced products since Ulysses S. Grant was president. They currently feature over 150 New England craft food and gift vendors in their shop. Even after 1½ centuries, Calef’s will continue to pump their own molasses and honey, age locally produced cheese in their own cooler, and smoke Ham the old fashioned way. Calef's brand old fashioned jams, jellies, bread, and soup mixes offer something for everyone. The wooden pickle barrel is still a focal point in the store. Calef’s Ginger Snaps are renowned for their bite. It’s all for sale here at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 125 in Barrington, New Hampshire.

The front service counter and the shelves around the store are said to be the oldest things at Calef’s. The counters used to be around the entire store, and you used to ask the clerks what you wanted, and they’d get it from the shelves behind them. Now it’s just completely open, but the staff here still provides excellent service in helping its customers pick out the perfect items as gifts or as special treats just to keep around the home.

At Calef’s, they pride themselves in carrying those hard to find items from the past, like their Old Time Candy selection. They feature a wide variety of penny candy that can tempt the old and young alike, most of which unfortunately costs a nickel now. They sell candy bars from the past, including Mars Bars, Sky Bars, Necco Wafers, Clark Bars, Sugar Daddies, Mallow Cups, Goo Goo Clusters, and many more. They also offer many favorites in ½ and 1 LB bags, including Kookaburra Licorice, Boston Baked Beans, and Nonpareils.

The Event

Calef’s Country Store is holding an event to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of their founding on September 7th, 2019 in Barrington, New Hampshire at the intersection of RTE-125 and RTE-9 with a full schedule of family-friendly fun, food and festivities.

The event, hosted by the Town of Barrington, the Greater Barrington Chamber of Commerce, and underwritten by Holy Rosary Credit Union, will be at the iconic New Hampshire institution from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Since it’s an outside event, there isn’t a set limit to how many people can come, but Calef’s is expecting at least 800 people to show up, and you don’t need to RSVP.

In addition to outdoor vendors, food stations, and giveaways, a program under the big tent will include musical entertainment, recognition of former Calef’s staffers, an introduction of special guests, and a reading of Governor Chris Sununu’s official commendation on the store’s anniversary milestone. The program also will recognize cheese steward and longtime employee Joel Sherburne’s 62nd year on the job.

“This celebration has been 150 years in the making,” said co-owner Greg Bolton, “as we look back on a tradition that dates to 1869 and look forward to many, many more years to come.”

The store, located at the intersection of NH Routes 125 and 9, also supports the regional economy by sourcing more than 90% of its gifts and specialty foods from small New England companies.

“We’re proud to be part of this community, this state, and this region,” says Bolton, “and we look forward to welcoming old and new friends to our celebration. It will certainly become part of cherished Calef’s lore, so this is one party you won’t want to miss!”

Many of the store’s 150 vendors will be at the 150th Anniversary event, so they’re all pretty excited about it. Bolton said that new vendors usually seek out Calef’s first, because they want their products to be sold in a store like this – Calef’s doesn’t have to go looking for them.

If you’re coming to the event, Calef’s asks you to bring any old newspaper clippings, photographs, and other memories so that we can commemorate the event. To celebrate a business that’s been around 150 years is a pretty unique opportunity, so we hope to see you all there!

For more information on Calef’s Country Store, visit