The wood floors once covered with sawdust are now tiled. Electricity once generated by a windmill out back now comes from the grid. People no longer bring empty laundry baskets to the Haines Pork Shop at 521 Kings Highway in Mickleton, but they still come—from all over Gloucester County, Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, even Ocean City—to buy Haines’s high-quality meats.
Wait. Laundry baskets?
Yes. Around 1900, when Jeremiah Haines and his son T. Edgar built the whitewashed wooden shed that still houses the family business, local farmers would bring laundry baskets and boxes to be lined with butcher paper and filled with the bacon, ham, chops and roasts the Haineses made from the pigs the farmers had raised.
In 1900, the Haines Pork Shop was just 13 years old, but T. Edgar was already an eighth-generation Jerseyan. His family, English farmers, had settled in Burlington in 1682, where they resumed farming and flourished.
Fast-forward nearly two centuries. In 1865, 34-year-old Rachel Iredell moves to Mickleton. She marries farmer Samuel Haines, of the sixth generation. In 1881, Samuel dies of cancer at age 54. Rachel is left to raise their eight children.
Rachel had always made sausage, scrapple, bacon and ham for family and friends. But in 1887, six years after Samuel’s death, she began selling these products to make ends meet.
Jeremiah, the seventh of Rachel’s brood, took up the cleaver, eventually passing it to T. Edgar, who passed it to his son, J. Ellison Haines Sr., who passed it to his son, J. Ellison “Jerry” Haines Jr.
Haines men had always been full-time vegetable farmers. Accordingly, the pork shop, when it finally came about, was strictly a November-through-March sideline—a practicality in the days before electric refrigeration.
Jerry, the first Haines never to be a farmer, joined his father, J. Ellison, in the business in 1974. A year later, J. Ellison relaxed the foundational pork-only policy and began selling fresh-killed local turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas. That proved popular and continues to this day.
In 1978, Jerry modernized, by opening the shop in summer, Thursdays through Saturdays only.
Jerry’s daughter, Meg, the 11th generation, first tied on an apron in high school.
“I learned a good work ethic,” she says, “because my dad was very particular about how things were done.”
During their senior year in high school, Meg was joined at the shop by her boyfriend, Harry Sheldon. After they graduated in 1991, Meg went to college and became an elementary school teacher. In 1992, Harry went from part-time to full-time at the pork shop. They married in 1995.
Meg taught first grade for eight years, then stayed home to raise their sons, Andrew, now 13, and Alex, now 10. She also helped her father with bookkeeping and pitched in at the shop during holiday crushes.
In 2008, Meg and Harry bought the business from Jerry, who happily retired to devote himself to tennis and golf in the same way he had to business: daily and in detail. At 71, he divides his time between Florida in winter and Maryland in summer.
Meg, 42, and Harry, 43, live with their boys in a house next door to the shop. In 2008, Harry began to add beef roasts and Delmonico and New York strip steaks to the larder. It’s been decades since neighbors have brought their own slaughtered pigs to be butchered and stored. For some time now, the pigs have come from Pennsylvania farms.
Aside from Jerry-era updates like state-of-the-art refrigeration for the walk-in coolers and display cases, a Butcher Boy electric bandsaw for big cuts, and a tying machine for roasts, Meg and Harry keep the building pretty true to its whitewashed, circa-1900 look. On the shelves, you’ll still find containers of J. Ellison’s prized pork seasoning mix. No more hanging carcasses, though.
“My children grew up going to the shop with me,” says Mickleton resident Mary Ruth Talley, a Haines customer for more than 60 years. “They were fascinated to see the pigs hanging from hooks.”
The steel hooks still encircle the room, but gone from them are the pig heads. “Sometimes we’d be busy, and I didn’t have time to push the hooks with the heads into the refrigerator,” reminisces Jerry. “Waiting on some customers, I’d notice their eyes would move from me to the pig heads, and their eyes would get very big.”
In the fall of 2014, Meg returned to teaching (second grade at East Greenwich Elementary School). Harry does the books and keeps on top of the website, hainesporkshop.com.
Older son Andrew helps out on holidays, doing a job Meg did as a teen, wrapping bacon.
“It’s really Harry’s business now,” says Meg. “I’m the president, technically, so I’m consulted. At least,” she adds with a laugh, “I damn well better be!”Click here to leave a comment