December 07, 2011LITTLETON — After two decades as a part-time pest and quality control supervisor and a full-time greeter, one of the most beloved employees at Merrill's Agway recently passed away.
Aggie the Agway cat walked in the door of the Meadow Street store twenty years ago and before long she became an integral part of the community — or at least a part of everyone's home and garden shopping experience. Customers knew the tabby's name more than anyone else's, and they would ask about her when she was busy patrolling the greenhouses and not immediately available, said storeowner Don Merrill of Littleton.
"She ran the place," added co-worker Steve Cotter of Littleton.
But eventually old age began to catch up with her, and Merrill watched the once 13-pound cat lose weight and become feeble as she neared the end of her life.
Though Aggie lived at the store, spending her nights in the office, on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 22, Merrill said he and his wife took the tabby home. By Sunday morning she had peacefully passed away, and she was buried on their land.
"She was purring to the end," Merrill said. And she also was dedicated to her responsibilities until the end: On the last day of her life she still made her rounds of the property.
"She'd always make sure she knew what was going on," he said.
More than her determination to keep a paw on the pulse of the business, however, Aggie's strongest quality was her people skills.
If she wasn't lying on the checkout counter where she could be the center of attention, she was following customers around to offer them a chance to scratch her head.
Cotter said she also loved to relax in the store's Adirondack chairs, though Merrill added that she was just waiting for someone to sit down next to her.
"I'm glad I knew the animal," said Anthony Melillo of Landaff, who knew Aggie for eight years and last saw her earlier this fall. "I'm just sad that [Aggie's] gone. She was definitely a part of this community."
Occasionally in her role as pest control — a natural talent to be sure, Aggie would catch a mouse. One of her most triumphant moments was when she cornered a weasel that stole in while the store's doors were open during business hours — just as she had once done.
She was "something you wouldn't see in a box store," said Merrill.
Aggie also had a naughty side, tearing open bags of cat food if she wasn't put in the office at night. However, she probably just saw it as another one of her jobs.
"She thought she was doing quality control," said Merrill.
Aggie arrived at the store when she was a year old, soon after it opened in its current building. Spayed and otherwise taken care of, she was likely dropped off by her previous owners at one of the farms that were still operating on The Meadow, said Merrill.
Her life ran almost parallel with the beginning and end of that building: Just as her days were coming to a close, Littleton's Agway was also facing a big change.
Merrill's grandfather, Hubert Merrill, started the business — then known as Eastern States ¬— in 1923. In 1964 the name was changed to Agway, according to a press release, and the business ran out of a couple of different locations before the current building was built in 1989.
Now after 88 years, the Agway portion of the business is being retired, though Merrill has plans to move and operate his Mt. Washington Homebrew Supply out of the Hadlock Group building, also on Meadow Street.