Harman’s Cheese & Country Store in Sugar Hill, NH, ships its “World’s Greatest Cheddar Cheese” to customers around the country and, sometimes, across the globe. A whopping twelve tons of Harman’s really aged cheddar leaves the store each year, either through customers who visit the small, red clapboard house tucked along Main Street or through mail order sales.
Last week, friends and neighbors gathered at the store to help with the annual unloading of the cheese – all 25,661 pounds of it – which arrived via tractor trailer truck from upstate New York, where it is made and aged two years specifically for Harman’s.
Harman’s is a family business, purchased from the original owners (John and Kate Harman) in 1981 by Maxine and Bert Aldrich. Bert died two years ago, and Maxine continues to run the store with her daughter Brenda Aldrich. The small shop offers plenty of local flavor – Zelda’s Jams and Jellies from Lancaster to the north, Two Sisters’ garlic jellies from Canterbury to the south, maple syrup produced right down the road, and other gourmet food items from throughout New England.
In the quiet town of Sugar Hill, without its own bank or grocer or village store, Harman’s is a place where locals often stop in for the latest scuttlebutt and to stock up on cheese and some of the other eclectic regional items stocked in the small store. Because the store is along one of the prettiest drives around, visitors also come in for directions or a gander at the items inside.
The Aldriches do a lot for the community, much of it behind the scenes, including organizing and promoting the annual Lupine Festival in the spring and the Celebration of Autumn each fall, which attract visitors from near and far.
Their friends and neighbors reciprocate during the annual unloading of the cheddar. Last week’s unloading crew included Brenda and Maxine, a couple of strong-backed neighbors, and a few friends. Some of them have helped unload the World’s Greatest Cheddar for years. Others are new to the scene.
Together they moved 600 blocks of cheese – each weighs upwards of 45 pounds – from the truck, down antique rollers, and into the walk-in cooler which by day’s end was filled to capacity. Overflow was carted to Windy Ridge Orchard in No. Haverhill, one of a handful of area businesses that will lend cooler space to Harman’s on occasion.
The folks who gathered to unload the cheese were all volunteers, and willing ones. Their payment for a couple hours of hard work? The satisfaction of helping a good neighbor with a tough job – and a block of the World’s Greatest Cheddar Cheese, of course.