My man H.L. Mencken once opined that a man who keeps a good saloon renders a distinct public service. Tweaking H.L. just a tad, I'd argue that a man who maintains a good market also offers a valued service. Such a man was Philip "Mickey" Kerin.

For the last several decades, Mickey presided dutifully and expertly at Barre's Central Market on Summer Street. His establishment has been shuttered for several months now, and I, for one, miss it mightily.

Mickey's merchandise, meat especially, was of exceptional quality. I was given to calling mid-week to request a dissected chicken in his own-made marinade. On Friday I would pick up a plastic bag with the quartered bird, now deliciously seasoned, while my grilling coals and Anita's incomparable potato salad awaited. In an hour or so, I was the household hero, but I hoisted one for Mickey who never let me down.

"I sell meat," Mickey once proclaimed, and his was simply the best available hereabouts. His bone-in pork chops were unsurpassed. For lunch to go, he offered, for $5, a fine variety of sandwiches purveyed from a slicer next to his meat and cheese cooler.

Pea soup? I know you Quebecois are out there. Mickey's ham hocks were bountifully ample (he kept them stashed under the counter.)

On Thanksgiving and Christmas, one wouldn't dream of going near a frozen turkey. Never.

The neighborhood market in Vermont is becoming as extinct as the Republican Party. There were several in Montpelier, including one at the foot of Elm Street that I patronized back in the day; and in Proctor, Barre's sister hamlet, Paul Trippini held forth at a fine establishment that almost mirrored Barre's, including sandwiches for lunch. Paul passed on and with him his mainstay market.

It is pleasing to note, however, that Kamuda's Market in Pittsford still stands, offering a fine array of meats. But, alas, it is the noteworthy exception.

So the Central is closed, and the mega markets prevail, supplanting a shopping option and a social tradition that I, for one, lament. Say "Amen," somebody.

Art Ristau


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