Marelli's Market in Hampton celebrates its centenary with a new book and a museum exhibit.
Back in 1914, Italian immigrants Luigi and Celestina Marelli opened a shop in what had recently become Hampton's downtown, near the railroad and right on the new trolley line. Marelli's Market quickly became a central part of the community, selling fruit, confections, olive oil, cigars, and ice cream they made themselves.
But what they really became known for were their roasted cashews and peanuts, an Italian favorite.
That’s what still draws longtime area resident Dave Lang to the shop. “As a very young kid I remember coming in with 25 cents and getting as much candy as I could possibly fit in a bag,” he recalls. “Well, later on, as you become an adult, your taste buds refine, and you go into the Marelli’s nut arena.”
Exactly one hundred years after it opened, the store still shells out about two thousand pounds of roasted nuts a year.
The nuts haven’t changed—and neither has the family running the market. The Marellis’ sons, Richard and Bobby Marelli, and their nieces (Luigi and Celestina's granddaughters) Karen Raynes and Marcia Hannon-Buber, still operate the store and roast the nuts daily.
That is, everybody but Raynes roasts the nuts…
“Marcia, Richard and Bobby are the only ones that roast them,” Raynes explains.
“Next year she'll get the recipe!” says Hannon-Buber.
“It's a big responsibility,” Raynes continues, “because they are famous all over the world. 'They are the best nut this side of the Isles of Shoals' is how we like to say it.”
Raynes doesn't know the salt-to-nut ratio yet, but that's really the only think she doesn't know about the market. She and Hannon-Buber spent years researching their family history, gathering stories along the way, like the one about the care packages the Marellis sent to Granite Staters serving in World War Two, the cats that protected the market's stock, and a century's-worth of ghosts.
The result: a book called Marelli's Market: The First 100 Years in Hampton New Hampshire.
But Marelli's has history to spare, so, across town, the Tuck Museum is opening an exhibit this Sunday.
Betty Moore, the director of the Tuck Museum, says Marelli's Market is a great success story. “Here was this Italian family that had come to this very traditional New England town,” she explains, “and they ended up embracing the family, because they were just warm, loving, wonderful people who did so much for the community.”
Raynes says the family is grateful for that, and grateful the relationship has continued for a hundred years – with many more years ahead.
“The third generation is coming in now and saying, 'When I was a little kid my grandmother brought me in here and we would buy candy,'” Raynes says. “It's a continuity that is so rare in our lives today.”
Some things have changed: there are no more home deliveries, the pickle jar has been decommissioned, and local art is displayed in what used to be the wine and beer section. But Marelli's still has its original tin ceiling, original creaky wooden floor, and its original family, roasting those same, famous peanuts and cashews.
That seems to be why, of all the markets in and around Hampton Center in 1914, this family store is the one that remains.