Peterborough

Off to Africa, after 42 years on the job

Peterborough’s Little Roy’s says goodbye to longtime store manager

  • Bill Burt, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, rings up purchases for J.W. Cox of Peterborough. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Bill Burt, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, rings up purchases for J.W. Cox of Peterborough.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bill Burt, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, talks to customer Richard Clason of Peterborough. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Bill Burt, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, talks to customer Richard Clason of Peterborough.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bill Burt, left, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, shakes hands with his friend and former co-worker, John Robinson of Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Bill Burt, left, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, shakes hands with his friend and former co-worker, John Robinson of Peterborough.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bill Burt is retiring after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Bill Burt is retiring after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bill Burt, left, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, wilth Chris Monkton, who will be taking over the management duties.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Bill Burt, left, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, wilth Chris Monkton, who will be taking over the management duties.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • Bill Burt, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, rings up purchases for J.W. Cox of Peterborough. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Bill Burt, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, talks to customer Richard Clason of Peterborough. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Bill Burt, left, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, shakes hands with his friend and former co-worker, John Robinson of Peterborough.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Bill Burt is retiring after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Bill Burt, left, who retired Friday after nearly 40 years as manager of Little Roy's in Peterborough, wilth Chris Monkton, who will be taking over the management duties.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

By the time this story hits the street, Bill Burt will be in
Africa.

On Friday, the only store manager that Little Roy’s convenience store has ever known spent his last day on the job as he usually does, checking stock, running the cash register and most importantly, talking to both the regulars and customers he was meeting for the first time. And on Saturday morning, Burt and his wife, Carla, flew off to South Africa for a five-week visit with their daughter, Khristen, and her family, including four of their seven grandchildren.

Burt, who recently turned 65, retired last week nearly 42 years after he first went to work for Albert Roy at Roy’s Market on the corner of Depot and Main streets in the fall of 1971. Three years later, after Roy decided a store that was open longer hours would be a good service for his customers, he came to Burt with an offer.

“I’d been working for Mr. Roy as a meat cutter and a clerk,” Burt said Thursday. “One day he said, ‘I want you to run the little store.’ It was a new idea, a novel idea. It worked out well.”

The building that housed the brand-new Little Roy’s convenience store, located on Depot Street behind the market, had once been a blacksmith shop, Burt said. Later it was a garage, a Mom and Pop store and a pizza place. Burt said it quickly became a success.

“I became the manager. I worked 60 hours a week for 35 years. Usually two days a week I’d work until closing. The only day off was Sunday,” Burt said. “It was a lot of hours, but it provided me with the ability to allow my wife to stay home for 13 years to raise our kids.”

Burt, who lives in Jaffrey, said his children were also able to visit him at work. When they became older, he’d put them behind the register once in a while.

Burt said getting to know customers has been a favorite part of the job for him.

“People, people, people,” he said. “You really make relationships over time. One lady just told me that five generations of her family had known me through Roy’s.”

The store became a place to go for the latest news, but Burt said he wasn’t always a good source.

“People assumed I knew a lot more about what was going on than I actually did,” he said. But answers were always available.

“If I didn’t know, somebody in the store always would, and by the time you were done, maybe you’d made a new friend,” Burt said. “Any topic was open — politics, sports. Whether we agreed or not, it didn’t really matter. That part was a lot of fun.”

Burt said the store has changed a lot in nearly 40 years. Cigarettes are no longer the best selling items and the variety of beverages has skyrocketed.

“When we opened, we had Coke in a can, in a six-pack and in a 10 ounce bottle. Now there’s Coke, Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, caffeine-free Coke, all sorts of sizes of cans and bottles. Once upon a time, one or two doors in the cooler could satisfy customers. Now you need a whole wall of coolers.”

Burt said the store was never held up, although it has been broken into after hours a couple of times. Customers, even the late-night crowd, are usually pleasant, he said, although he did recall one incident many years ago.

“We had a little tussle one night. A whole bunch of kids had been hanging around outside. I don’t know what they’d been doing, but a kid came in, then an officer came in and they got in a scuffle. It was like a good old-fashioned Western fight. I locked the door, to keep other kids out. Then I heard a knocking and it was the chief. I let him in.”

Chief Joe McCarthy and his officer got the youth under control, handcuffed him and took him out to a police cruiser.

“As they were putting him in, one of the other kids stole the chief’s hat,” Burt said. “So the chief ran off after him, and when that happened, the other kids let the first guy out. He went running down the street, still in the handcuffs. They caught him though, down by the river, I think.”

Burt said he’ll miss his customers, but even though he’s scaled back to about 30 hours a week in recent years, he’s ready to spend more time with his family. He and Carla have three children — Michael, Khristen, and Jonathan, all in their thirties — and seven grandchildren — Britni, Ella, Joanna, Myles, Hannah, Lily and Rosie Joy — with one more on the way. They also have a great-grandchild, Britni’s son Colby. A proud patriarch, Burt rattles off all the names and relationships with no hesitation.

“I can’t say enough about how much my family has supported me,” he said.

Carla Burt now works as a paraprofessional for the ConVal School District, and the Burts were ready to travel as soon as school let out for the summer. They’ve been to South Africa before, both to visit Khristen and her family and on mission trips through their church, Trinity Evangelical in Peterborough.

“I’ve been more and more involved with missions,” Burt said. “That’s the direction my wife and I are heading; it’s a team thing. We’ve worked to help orphans in South Africa. We want to do more. I don’t know where this is all going to lead. I’m in transition now.”

And when they return, Burt will be back home in Jaffrey.

“I’m not a very exciting guy. Lived in the same house, married to the same woman, worked at the same job all this time.”

Burt doesn’t have a lot of hobbies, because he’s never had much time.

“I like gardening, I like to have my hands in the dirt,” he said. “I love to fish and I pretend that I hunt. And I love being outside. I’ll probably find something part time to do.”

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