Lots of things have changed over the past 120 years, but there have been few changes at Rambo’s Country Store in Califon.
Regulars still gather at Rambo’s to share a cup of coffee or a fishing story. Kids still stop by after school to get an ice cream cone or a candy bar on their way to the nearby park. Teens come in with their dates for a homemade burger or a sandwich lunch. And Leonard Rambo, the former owner, still comes in twice a week to help out, stuffing sausages and helping out with the meat deliveries.
Rambo’s is the only remaining icon in Califon to an era long gone. Owner Donald Freibergs has owned Rambo’s for the past 12 years. The store was built by Abraham Philhower in 1888, and it’s been in continuous operation ever since. It was originally one of three general stores in town. After the Philhowers had it, the Apgars owned it for almost 50 years, and then the Rambos bought it and ran it for 50 years. When Leonard Rambo, Jr. took over, he made it a butcher shop, as well.
Freibergs, was born and raised in Califon and began working before and after school at the store when he was 10 years old, stocking and unstocking the vegetable display. As he got older, he was given more responsibilities and eventually took over the front counter and cash register before buying the shop with his wife, Marie, in 1998.
The Freibergs work together as a family. Donald & Marie’s children, Margaret and Andrew, work side by side helping out in the store.
With a full deli, steaks, roasts, freshly ground beef, homemade sausages, lamb, turkey and veal, as well as dinner specialties like chicken potpies, chicken tetrazzini, baked ziti and homemade soups and salads, Rambo’s Country Store is in no way a “convenience store.”
The pot-bellied stove from years ago is still there along with a hand-crank cash register from 1911. The counters are original and the store still has old wooden floors. There are many antiques and original features throughout the store.
In addition to selling more than 300 fresh turkeys every Thanksgiving, Freibergs says he sells about 60 homemade chicken pot pies a week! The chicken pot pies are very popular. Made in the store, Donald boils chicken thighs, makes a special gravy, then adds vegetables and potatoes and puts it all in a pie crust. Rambo’s Chicken Pot Pies are a hearty and convenient homemade dinner that you can feel good about feeding to your family.
Inside the store, you’ll find a few tables and on the front porch, you’ll find a few chairs where people can sit with an ice cream or coffee, or share lunch with a friend.
Each Wednesday a variety of homemade Italian sausage is made in the store. Most of the business at Rambo’s is take-out and revolves around their wonderful selection of fresh meats, chops, steaks, and cold cuts!