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Mehuron's Market Celebrates 75 Years in the Mad River Valley

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  • Posted

June 3, 2016

  • Written by Mary Kathleen Mehuron

Elmer Robert Mehuron

Elmer Robert Mehuron

The following is a compilation of articles by Mary Kathleen Mehuron, wife of current owner/operator of Mehuron's Supermarket, on the 75 year history of the Market.

Elmer Robert Mehuron
The founder of Mehuron’s Market

published in The Valley Reporter March 10, 2016

Elmer was born just after the turn of the century, 1906, and was by all accounts an exceptionally intelligent, hardworking, kind and quiet man. He married Aurelia Grace Shaw on June 29, 1931, and they had three children — Allen, Anne and Calvin. It was the deepest part of the Great Depression, yet 10 years after his wedding, Elmer was ready to open his own business.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sworn in for his third term in office, national aviation hero Charles Lindbergh testified before the U.S. Congress that we should negotiate a neutrality pact with Adolph Hitler and, during an international radio broadcast, Winston Churchill asked America to show its support by sending weapons to England. "Give us the tools and we will finish the job." Here in Waitsfield, Vermont, Elmer opened the doors to his general store on Bridge Street, mere months before the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked the United States Navy at Pearl Harbor.

A pastoral example of the Mad River Valley community that Elmer planned to serve exists in the Library of Congress.

A pastoral example of the Mad River Valley community that Elmer planned to serve exists in the Library of Congress. “Walter M. Gaylord and his neighbor, George Wallis, discussing syruping in the sugar house while the sap is boiling into maple syrup.”

While the international news was daunting, the conflicts must have seemed very far away from his small farming town. The folks in Waitsfield were having troubles of their own and that was something Elmer could help with.

Bridge Street was the town center at the time and in addition to the grocery, it housed Bisbee’s Hardware, a bank, pharmacy, the post office and the town clerk’s office. Before Bisbee’s Hardware was started, in the blue building that now houses Peasant restaurant, Elmer owned it. He operated his general store in that location from 1941 to 1944, when he bought the building next door, now Artisans’ Gallery, and moved.

Elmer Mehuron's father-in-law, Dr. Carlos Shaw, the town doctor, is pictured standing down the street from Mehuron's Independent Grocery Store.

Elmer Mehuron’s father-in-law, Dr. Carlos Shaw, the town doctor, is pictured standing down the street from Mehuron’s Independent Grocery Store.

Waitsfield native Randall “Randy” Graves, originally of Spring Hill Farm on North Road, remembers that “The basement floor of the corner Bridge Street building used to be The Sievright Pharmacy. I bought my very first LP album there, The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, and there was a small soda fountain in there as well.”

Dr. Shaw’s son, Aurelia’s brother Max, delivered groceries from Mehuron’s. Randy had further thoughts, “The groceries being delivered to our farmhouse on the common was always kind of exciting. We, along with most folks, just did not have a lot of money. I can easily remember though asking my mother for a ‘treat’ when she would call in her order to Mehuron’s. Dad, being a farmer, was not always available to go down and pick up groceries during business hours, so Elmer had a delivery service much like the milkman delivery of the time: milk in glass bottles, butter and cottage cheese. Max Shaw used to deliver in what was called a panel truck — a precursor to today’s vans. I recall that Max’s panel truck was a forest green. His arrival was an exciting distraction to the day’s chores and often my ‘treat’ was a bag of salted peanuts in the shell. Sometimes a fresh orange or two. Mostly, though, I looked forward to grocery day because Mehuron’s delivered their goods in boxes which was a pretty novel way of reusing/recycling even before it was popular. It just made sense to reuse boxes, I imagine. But those boxes gave me and other adventurous kids wonderful memories, as they became forts and space capsules where we could hide from attacking Indians. The boxes were great fun!”

Running Mehuron's was a family affair. Elmer and Aurelia Mehuron with their sons Allen and Calvin. Seated on the left is daughter, Anne, and on the right is Elmer's sister,

Running Mehuron’s was a family affair. Elmer and Aurelia Mehuron with their sons Allen and Calvin. Seated on the left is daughter, Anne, and on the right is Elmer’s sister, “Aunt” Ruth McGill Mehuron.

Recently, standing next to the paper towels in aisle number nine of Mehuron’s, Waitsfield farmer Elwin Neill Jr. concurred about the deliveries: “That Max Shaw was a character. The only problem with Max was deer hunting season. It was a time of year when he had a lot of deliveries to make to camps and so forth. Along the way the guys would ask him if he wanted a drink. He always did and it would be late by the time he got to us. When he finally arrived, he wasn’t always in the best shape.”

Mehuron’s was a family business from the start. Elmer, Aurelia and all three of their children worked at the store.

Allen Ebinezer Mehuron, his wife Margarette and grandson Elmer Mehuron (future general store owner) sit at their son Thomas' farm on North Road in Waitsfield. This award-winning photograph was done by photographer Agnes Prentice.

Allen Ebinezer Mehuron, his wife Margarette and grandson Elmer Mehuron (future general store owner) sit at their son Thomas’ farm on North Road in Waitsfield. This award-winning photograph was done by photographer Agnes Prentice.

Elmer Mehuron’s generosity is still remembered by many

published in The Valley Reporter March 17, 2016

Civil War hero Allen Ebinezer Mehuron served his country from 1861 until after the Battle of Antietam was fought in Maryland, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

He was attacked with Chills and Fever at Hagerstown, Maryland, and sent to hospital at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was discharged there February 4, 1863, by reason of Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability.”

In February, father and son, Thomas A. Mehuron, posed for this picture at the Fayston Civil War Monument. Current storeowner Tom is the great-great grandson of Allen Ebenezer and grandson of Elmer.

In February, father and son, Thomas A. Mehuron, posed for this picture at the Fayston Civil War Monument. Current storeowner Tom is the great-great grandson of Allen Ebenezer and grandson of Elmer.

LOCAL FOLKS REMEMBER ELMER

For over 40 years, the arrival of Elwin Neill’s sweet corn in late summer to the produce department of Mehuron’s has been a reason for the community to celebrate. He remembered the founder of the store, Elmer Mehuron, fondly, “When I first started growing corn, Elmer was still helping out here at the new store. I must have been in my 20s. Now, there was a natural born businessman. He was quiet, but he was shrewd.”

Dave Sellers, who is noted as one of the hundred foremost architects in the world, credited Elmer Mehuron and his business with giving him a running start at his career. “When I first came to The Valley in 1965 to see if we could build some buildings without spending a lot of money, I came with three women and a dozen guys. My strategy was to go to the grocery store and ask for 90 days of credit for food. So I met Elmer... and you sense that there is something deep, deep inside of him. He asked me, ‘Are you the guys that bought that land in East Warren?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Can I get food credit for 90 days?’ He said, ‘Sure. In fact you don’t even need to sign anything. When you go in, just tell the cashier who you are and take it away.’ I couldn’t believe it!”

Aurelia and Elmer Mehuron.

Aurelia and Elmer Mehuron.

The memory of Elmer’s trust and generosity was more emotional for Randall Graves to retell: “... undoubtedly my most enduring memory is about the way Elmer treated my family when they had no money for groceries. But I am sure we were not alone either ... my Dad retold this over and over until his death. As I have heard other ‘old timers’ say, nobody had any money in those days of the late 1950s or early 1960s. Elmer allowed my mother and father to keep getting food and groceries when they simply could not pay their bills. It was a very embarrassing time for my parents. Yet, I can easily recall numerous conversations between my parents where they would explain how Elmer made it possible to buy essentially ‘on weekly credit’ and tell dad ‘to pay me when you have the money. I know you will, Bover.’ Just got a lump in my throat. ...”

Henri Borel, the founder of Chez Henri restaurant, recounted a favorite story: “I hardly knew Elmer yet, and we had just had an emergency. I had to go to Montreal immediately, but it was Saturday and the bank was closed. I told Elmer about my dilemma and he handed me a hundred dollars. He assumed that I would pay him back, he was that kind of man.” After reflecting for a moment, Henri, who was raised speaking French, joked, “We got along fine, Elmer and me. I didn’t understand him and he couldn’t understand me.”

Daughter-in-law Irene Mehuron said, “My in-laws, Aurelia and Elmer, were wonderful people. They were very considerate and compassionate. Elmer had a great business ability and many friends.”

tom mehuron On Thursday, May 3, 1984, after 43 years of success, The Valley Reporter named Elmer as a man of the year: “He founded a business in 1941 that has operated continuously with a family member at the helm. Today his grandson, Tom, who followed in his dad’s (Allen) footsteps, oversees the daily operation of Mehuron’s Grocery Store which has long been a staunch supporter of young people’s events and the collection center for food for numerous charitable dinners.”

 

 

 

 

Allen Mehuron at 2 years old at his Aunt Ruth's July wedding in 1934. He is pictured with groom Jimmy McGill and bride Ruth Mehuron.

Allen Mehuron at 2 years old at his Aunt Ruth’s July wedding in 1934. He is pictured with groom Jimmy McGill and bride Ruth Mehuron.

The second generation – Allen Elmer Mehuron born 1932

published in The Valley Reporter March 24, 2016

Founder Elmer Mehuron’s son Allen was born in 1932 and, except for when he was very young or in the armed services, he worked at the store. He is widely reported to have been an incredible athlete, good student and, eventually, an excellent businessman. As a boy he excelled in baseball and basketball.

Allen Mehuron

Allen Mehuron

Allen’s brother, Calvin, wrote, “I'm told that I was born (1939) in the house on the loop road, but my earliest recollections were of living above the store. Anne said that dad ran the store (blue building) closer to the bridge before buying the one next door where we lived for many years. I don't recall living in the first one. Dad bought various properties. I remember him working and working at all these places to improve them. He was a great man with enormous energy. Dad bought the house across the bridge and next to the gristmill from Paul Moriarty in the late 1950s and that became our home until both mom (Aurelia) and dad (Elmer) passed.”

Allen Mehuron is center in back row. He played contrabass saxophone in the school band.

Allen Mehuron is center in back row. He played contrabass saxophone in the school band.

Allen played the contrabass saxophone in the band at the old high school. He must have been an enthusistic performer as he was selected at 13 to be the color bearer in a major Waitsfield event.

Allen Mehuron with his grandfather Thomas Mehuron.

Allen Mehuron with his grandfather Thomas Mehuron.

 The Burlington Free Press reported that young Allen led the town parade, which was done twice as a fundraiser. “The success of the Waitsfield field day held Thursday, August 23, 1945, surpassed the expectations of the most optimistic. The parade, consisting of floats and specialties put on by local organizations, showed much originality and planning on the part of the participants. ... Allen Mehuron acted as color bearer. The parade was repeated in the evening with even better effect than in the afternoon and the crowd finished the day with a dance in the community hall. When the committee added their profits they found that the affair had netted the tidy sum of $375 for the War Memorial fund.”

Allen graduated from Waitsfield High School and went to work for his dad, Elmer, full time at Mehuron’s IGA.

Brother Calvin told us, “In the center of the floor of the old store was a grate above the basement furnace. That was a favorite spot to warm feet, a prime resting spot for our English bulldog.

“All sales were documented on sales slips, which were handwritten and manually added. Much of the business was charge with a fair percentage of that never collected.

“My mother called customers on a delivery route and took orders over the phone. The telephone system was composed of party lines so people could listen in on others calls if they shared a line. If someone was away, a fellow line occupant could pick up and say so. The phone number at the store was 28.

Allen with sister Anne and baby brother Calvin.

Allen with sister Anne and baby brother Calvin.

“Dad used to take various products (beef, pork, chickens, eggs, etc.) from local farmers either in trade or by purchase. He also had some livestock of his own. I remember how I was very upset that my favorite pig had been slaughtered. I also recall trying to corral loose cattle where dad had arranged for them to be pastured.

“Each morning would start with a preopening ritual of Max Shaw sprinkling all the wooden floors with dust bane and sweeping the floors. Each day at closing, we would cash out by matching the day’s cash slips totaled on an adding machine with the cash drawer balance. Then the cash and checks were taken to the safe.”

Randy Graves remembers the wood and glass candy counter that was on the right-hand side just as you entered the store. There was also an old-fashioned Coke machine. He recently wrote that, “I still have a large box of comic books bought from Mehuron’s. I recall the metal comic stand where we would stand and stare, deciding on how to spend a very dear 5 cents. Sometimes we got caught reading them too much before buying them.

“The meat counter was at the very back of the store and I can still hear the squeaking wooden floorboards as we walked through the aisles. Max Shaw cut meat but was joined by a young Delbert Palmer who started his career as a butcher there.”

Irene Weslik Mehuron

published in The Valley Reporter April 7, 2016

Irene and Allen in the driveway between the old Bisbee's building (on the right in the picture) and the old Mehuron's (unseen to the left in the photo).

Irene and Allen in the driveway between the old Bisbee's building (on the right in the picture) and the old Mehuron's (unseen to the left in the photo).

 “Although I was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, I spent most of my grown life nearby in Lynn, a city of 100,000 people of many nationalities and races. My family lived in the west part of town which was the Polish section. My parents had seven children – three girls and three boys. I was the youngest child.

“My father had a bakery where he made bread and pastries. He sold them to our neighbors and folks in the next town. I attended the local schools and later went to State Teachers College in Salem. While I was in college I lived at home and worked as a bookkeeper in a pawn shop.

“Before we could get a position teaching high school in Massachusetts, we were required to get experience. As I was about to graduate I looked at jobs in other states. There were positions in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that suited my purpose.

“I was called for an interview in Waitsfield, Vermont. The head of the school board, Ed Eurich, said to me, ‘It isn’t unusual for a single woman teaching here to meet someone and get married.’

“I answered him, ‘I’ll sign the contract right now.’

“At the old high school, I taught the business courses and did some coaching. During the month of February, I heard that there was to be a basketball tournament in Barre and I mentioned to my classes that I wanted to go to it. One of my students said, ‘My brother will take you.’ The student was Anne Mehuron and her brother was Allen Mehuron.

“I taught in Waitsfield for two years. Allen enlisted in the service during the Korean War and I went back to Massachusetts to work at Acton High School until he had completed his two-year commitment,” Irene Weslik Mehuron recalled.

Allen Mehuron heads off to war.

Allen Mehuron heads off to war.

On December 2, 1952, this picture was published of Allen going off to the service. A year later a second story appeared about Allen in the Burlington Free Press that featured the photograph that is above to the right. It read, “Allen E. Mehuron, son of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Mehuron of Waitsfield, is stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. ... Mehuron graduated in 1950 from Waitsfield High School where he was a star basketball and baseball player. He pitched for the school throughout his four years and for the Legion team at Waterbury. For the last two years he was employed at his father’s general store.”

After serving in Germany, Allen was honorably discharged. He and Irene married in Massachusetts on December 27, 1954.

Allen and Irene wedding photo

Allen and Irene wedding photo

Allen and Irene wasted no time in starting a family. Their first child, a son named Tom, was born in September of the year following their wedding.

Here is little Thomas A. Mehuron in front of his grandfather’s market. Tom, his father Allen, mother Irene and sister Karen lived in the apartment on the second story until his parents built their house on the hill on Mehuron’s Lane in 1965.

Tom on a trike in front of store.

Tom on a trike in front of store.

When shown this photograph, Tommy remarked, “That’s my green tricycle that I’m riding. I remember it like it was yesterday.” Notice the sign in the window advertising a bag of flour for $1.05.

The general store was right across the street from longtime town clerk Emily Eaton’s house and office. Irene was asked to help Emily out with her work as she was always “good with figures.” As a result, Irene was nominated for and held the post of town treasurer in 1958 and 1959.

During those years, local hair stylist Celeste Minotti stayed summers with her grandmother in an apartment above Emily’s in the building where All Things Bright and Beautiful is now. Celeste’s grandmother wasn’t Catholic and didn’t understand that missing church on Sunday was a mortal sin. Irene took charge of the situation, brought Celeste with her to Mass and would often include her in family outings. “She took us down to the river to swim and sometimes out for ice cream. She was wonderful.”

This was a postcard by photographer Don Bristol titled Old Covered Bridge. The three ragamuffins pictured in front of the historical landmark are Tommy Mehuron, whose family’s quarters were just steps away, and his buddies, Bobby Bisbee and Billy Nelson.

Allen and Irene Mehuron – the Second Generation

published in The Valley Reporter April 21, 2016

In 1969, just months before American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon and uttered the immortal words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," the Mehuron family took a leap of its own. They moved out of the old space on Bridge Street and opened their new doors as Mehuron’s Supermarket in the newly constructed Village Square.

An unexpected obstacle in the transition was the weight and size of their metal safe. Paraphrasing from the March 1969 issue of The Newspaper, when Harry Bonnette’s tow truck got a grip on it and lifted, his front wheels came up off the ground. As a result, Adrian Elwell’s truck was called into service too. The two trucks faced each other and picked up the safe suspended between them. With Adrian “leading the way” but driving backward, Harry slowly followed. Creeping along, the safe was moved to the market’s new home.

According to the same publication, the variety of products at the new supermarket “boggled our country minds.” Nostalgia was clearly a bittersweet part of the event, as customers lamented the loss of the character of the old, antique store. At the same time, they were excited by a new shopping experience.

This article in The Newspaper describes a sincere and simpler time in Waitsfield, especially when compared to what was happening across the rest of the nation in 1969. More and more Americans were attending anti-war demonstrations and demanding that the U.S. withdraw from Vietnam. The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Janis Joplin were breaking down the doors of popular music and the most famous music festival of modern times, Woodstock, took place on a New York farm with more than 400,000 avid music fans.

Vermont Governor Dean C. Davis attending the opening of Mehuron's Supermarket in The Village Square Shopping Center

Vermont Governor Dean C. Davis attending the opening of Mehuron's Supermarket in The Village Square Shopping Center

Governor Deane C. Davis attended the opening ceremony of Mehuron’s Supermarket.

When Allen’s son, Tom, was asked why his father was successful, he responded, “In Vermont you have certain limitations. Hard work, paying attention to your customers and being financially responsible will get you a long way. It’s about not spending every penny when you have a good streak. And not panicking when you’re not. You have to invest enough into the business to stay competitive – without going in to debt.”

Allen and Irene Mehuron

Allen and Irene Mehuron

Once Allen’s son Tom graduated from college and committed to working at the store, Allen and Irene spread their wings. They took trips to Hawaii and the Caribbean and bought a house in Arizona where they could spend the winter.

Allen threw himself into his work with the Vermont Grocers’ Association and local charity groups.

Allen was also a member of Waitsfield Federated Church and the advisory board at Howard Bank for over 12 years. He was a member and president of the Valley Rotary Club, Mad River Valley American Legion Post 75 and the Mad River Lodge 77, F&M. Somehow he also found time to serve the town of Waitsfield on the volunteer fire department and the Waitsfield Planning Commission.

Sadly, Allen Elmer Mehuron passed away in 1987 at the still young age of 55.

He and his wife Irene built trusts for each of their four grandchildren that paid the bulk of their college educations. At the time of this writing, their grandson Thomas Allen Mehuron III is attending medical school, in part with their help.

Friends Irene, Ruth and Jan

Friends Irene, Ruth and Jan

Irene started working at the store when the new space was built. With the assistance of friend and longtime employee Jan Barnard, she ran the front office for years.

Locals who were interviewed reported that when the old store sat empty in the late 1960s, Irene opened it as a youth center. She is a humble woman and often minimizes her efforts to reach out to others. “I don’t even remember that,” she said to me with a smile when I asked her about it. But the truth is, in her own quiet way, she has made a difference for many people in this town.

As a devout Catholic, Irene has had several roles at Our Lady of the Snows, such as teaching religion to children and visiting sick parishioners. Her handcrafted sweaters are the hit of any baby shower and she often makes them for new mothers whether she is invited to a party or not. She began to create beautiful, cozy “prayer shawls” for friends who got ill and needed comfort. She has delivered 30 of them in recent years.

After Allen passed away, Irene began to travel with the Northfield Passport Club, which was for senior citizens. With that group she went to Alaska, Ireland, Poland (the home of her immigrant parents), the Soviet Union, Africa and Hawaii. She also participated in all the charity work that the group did, such as dressing American Girl dolls for disadvantaged children.

Irene continued to invest her time in the store in order to “help my son Tom out.” She worked almost every day, from 1969 to 2014, until she was 85 years old. Although she has pretty much retired, she remains incredibly active. Irene loves yoga and takes two or more classes a week. The most common adjective used to describe her is “amazing.” She still comes in once a month to handle the hundreds of personal charge accounts left over from the days before credit and debit cards.

On the weekend that the Mehuron family comes together to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the store, they will also celebrate her 87th birthday.

The third generation – Tom Mehuron

published in The Valley Reporter May 5, 2016

“I grew up in the grocery business. Not only did my father work for his father in the original Mehuron’s building on Bridge Street, but we lived in the three-bedroom apartment above that store until I was 8,” Tom Mehuron wrote, recalling his childhood memories.

Even after his family moved out of the apartment above the store, he continued to work there. “I helped out off and on doing odd jobs like turning the 40-pound aging wheels of Cabot cheese and packaging eggs, that all came loose at that time, into cartons of a dozen. My grandfather had me keep a log of my time in a little notebook and I gave it to him every month or so for payment. I think I started at 25 cents per hour.

As I got older, I was jealous of various friends who were earning more money than I was by helping to build many of the ski chalets and vacation homes in The Valley in the 1970s. I asked my father where I could earn the most working for him, so he started me training as a meat cutter. The work was very interesting and very tiring, but there was great satisfaction in the quality of the product we were producing,” he recalled.

At the time, both Sugarbush and Mad River Glen ski areas were buying their burger meat from Mehuron’s and it was not unusual for Tom to be in the walk-in meat cooler for a couple hours straight on a winter Saturday afternoon grinding 500 to 600 pounds of burger meat.

Like many rural Vermont kids from that time period, he really wanted to be out of his small town. He enrolled at UVM with the intent of “getting the heck out of Waitsfield.”

Tom became acquainted with people who were from the urban areas where he thought it would be fantastic to live. “Eventually they made me realize how fortunate I was to live in the Mad River Valley. After securing an employment opportunity with what was then a Big 8 accounting firm, I changed my mind and chose instead to try my hand at the family business. Best decision of my life,” he stated decisively.

“I spent my first few years doing everything throughout the store and learning. It could be cashing up for the day, mopping floors on a Sunday when the store was closed because of the blue laws, stocking shelves or whatever was needed. Most importantly, making money for my father by creating sales was my goal. Fortunately, the Mad River Valley was attracting some people who had a real appreciation for quality food and I was fortunate enough to get their attention,” he said.

One of the first such people was the late Jackie Rose, proprietor of The Store, located at the time in the green building next to Irasville Country Store. She hosted a number of cooking classes at that property and she convinced Tom to attend.

“The dishes produced by those chefs elevated my appreciation of fine ingredients and fresh foods,” he said.

The second person to have a big influence on him was Kenny Hu, then the chef at the China Barn restaurant on Route 17.

“I had developed a Sunday routine where, after finishing getting the floors of the market in the best shape we could, I would change and do a long-distance run from the store up toward Mad River Glen.

“Kenny would see me coming back down the mountain and started waving me over to the restaurant. I honestly think he started doing this because I had gotten so skinny that he thought I needed to be fed. But though we had a bit of a communication barrier, he began teaching me the fundamentals of wok cooking and the concept that flavorful foods were not as difficult to create and enjoy, as most people would have you think.

“I discovered that many of my new customers not only appreciated really good food but were very interested in creating meals at home, not just eating them at restaurants,” he recalled.

This new awareness allowed Tom to feel confident in acquiring a seafood business and adding a seafood department and 8,000 square feet, vastly expanding the store’s wine and deli selections. It also made room for many other products including locally made products. The acquisition of the state liquor store a couple of years later made his dream of one-stop food and beverage shopping complete.

“It may have been my vision, but I didn’t do it alone. I have been blessed with many long-term, loyal employees. Some just have to be mentioned and I hope that if anybody is left out they will not feel slighted. The list is probably tilted more heavily toward today, but, honestly, the last 10 years has been the toughest in terms of competition and yet we have thrived better during that time period,” Tom said.

In 1995, Delbert Palmer took over his family’s six-generation maple sugar business, Palmer Maple Products, and won many awards with their product. He was also Mehuron’s head meat cutter for 26 years and was probably more recognized as the face of Mehuron’s than Tom was during the first 10 years he ran the business. Delbert loved people and he volunteered to be the driver of the first few Fourth of July floats that Mehuron’s entered in the Warren parade. More importantly, he joined the Waitsfield-Fayston Fire Department at age 17 and dedicated 62 years of service, 23 of those years as chief. Delbert passed away in 2014 at the age of 79.

For over 40 years, Jan Barnard worked for Tom’s grandfather, father and Tom. She was a very dear family friend as were her husband and children. Jan worked at the store in a variety of positions and through a tremendous amount of personal adversity. Tom told me, “Her demeanor taught me a lot about handling tough situations.” When Janice Elwood Barnard was 80, she died after a serious illness. When interviewing folks for this article, every one of them mentioned Jan and how much they still miss her.

Tona Bombard started working at the business right after she and Tom Mehuron graduated high school in 1973. She is the longest running full-time employee in the history of the store and that includes the three Mehuron owners, Elmer, Allen and Tom. She has never been afraid to tackle any job and Tom says, “That is irreplaceable.” She was also instrumental in establishing the Halloween costume tradition among the employees.

Nancy Armstrong has worked full time at Mehuron’s since 1978 when she started as a cashier. She became the first deli manager and when Tom did his big addition, she became the beverage manager. Nancy helped by learning about fine wine and managing the state liquor agency from its inception. She also was instrumental in getting the Fourth of July floats done and, to this day, is one of the most consistent Halloween characters.

Carol Beattie has worked for the family since the late 1970s, except for one brief interlude. As an instrumental member of the staff, she’s been charged with a number of different tasks over that time. Tom described her character: “It’s not everyone who you can trust to have access to your safe, open the doors in the morning and lock them after everyone has gone. She is as honest as the day is long.” She is also a close friend of the family.

Carol Howes came to work as a cashier for Tom’s father in the early 1980s and retired as head cashier about 30 years later.

“She was our anchor at the front end where she got to know everyone. I don’t think she missed as many as 10 scheduled days of work in that whole time,” Tom said.

“Bob Welter has not worked at Mehuron’s for as long the others mentioned, but he has been one of the main reasons that the store still exists under my ownership today,” Tom told me. “He arrived during very trying times and, like Tona, has never been afraid to tackle any job or problem. Any business owner will testify to how important this trait is. With him, it applies not only to work but also to my family.

“As I write this, we have 13 employees who have more than 10 years working here. That number may not seem that very extraordinary in some careers, but in retail, at 30 percent of my staff, it is pretty remarkable. Those people are the backbone of this tradition and I am proud of what we are accomplishing,” he added.

Current owner and manager of Mehuron’s: Thomas Allen Mehuron

published in The Valley Reporter May 26, 2016

Tom running Tom was a little stunned when it was pointed out to him that he has been running Mehuron’s longer than his father or grandfather did. His response was, “That’s scary.”

After he graduated from Harwood Union High School in 1973, Tom moved to Burlington where he attended the University of Vermont. He had big dreams of eventually relocating to a large, metropolitan city, but when he came back to work on the weekends and school vacations he found that interesting things were happening in his hometown.

Sugarbush Resort was nicknamed “Mascara Mountain” in the 1970s because of its glamorous clientele of celebrities, designers, models and various Kennedy family members. Millions of dollars were invested to expand the attraction and, as a result, the Mad River Valley was booming. Tom began to meet new people around town who thought that living in Waitsfield was cool. By the time that he earned his bachelor's degree Tom saw his hometown with fresh eyes. But he decided that if he were going to work in the family business, he would shape an enviornment that he really enjoyed.

Tom encouraged his employees to have fun. Traditions were born to dress up for Halloween and build floats to enter in the Warren Fourth of July parade.

Tom also quickly learned to offset long hours at the store with breaks to exercise. To the right he is dressed to go for a run after he lights his mother’s birthday cake at the checkout line.

He hosted many holiday parties for his employees. They were great times, and one highlight was that Tom dressed up as Santa to hand out gifts.

The Mehuron’s logo was actually printed on Tom’s shirt;

it was just taken out of his drawer and set on a scanner. He is clear that Bev Kehoe originally created the design about 1985, but when asked about it she said, “Did I? My sister Debby is the one who did silk screening back then.” After a few discussions, the Kehoe girls and Tommy decided that Bev drew it and Debby made the first of the famous and also infamous T-shirts.

When they first were printed they were a sensation and a public tip-off that Tom was going to do things very differently than his father had. “My dad worked and worked. I knew that the only way I could run this store over the long haul was to make it fun.”

Mehuron’s was known for custom-cutting high-quality meats, which, by the way, the butcher department will be happy to do for you now.

Tom made the back of his new marketing tool a bit riské. He said, “ I wanted to create something that would get the Mehuron’s name out more but at the same time do it with humor.”

Kathy Mehuron is married to Tom Mehuron, current proprietor of the store.

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