Barrington: 'A cute town,' and it's not too dear
Houses in the Camden County community are less pricey than single-families in nearby areas.
So, it's the first Tuesday in December, the sun is shining, and the temperature is hovering at 65.
The only way you'd know Christmas was coming to Barrington would be to glance up at the colorful holiday banners festooning every utility pole on Clements Bridge Road from White Horse Pike as far as the Runnemede border.
What might catch your eye if you looked closely at those banners is each has a sponsor - both local businesses and families, but especially the latter.
Eileen Holcombe, assistant to the mayor and council, doesn't find this kind of grassroots support all that unusual (they collect the money for sponsorships at Borough Hall).
She points out that the part-time mayor, Robert Klaus, delivers food to residents in need that others drop off at Borough Hall, and notes that some members of the senior center don't live in Barrington but are welcome just the same.
"They love me," Holcombe says of the seniors, with whom she spends part of each of her days at the office.
For people not from this part of Camden County, the mention of Barrington draws puzzled expressions.
That doesn't surprise Steve Roberts, who with his brother, Brian, owns Mr. Roberts Lumber Centers and Volney G. Bennett Lumber Co. on Clements Bridge Road at Page Avenue.
"Look across the street," Steve Roberts says. "That's Haddon Heights. Barrington isn't on both sides of Clement Bridge Road till you cross the railroad tracks."
But why is the Barrington Diner on the Haddon Heights side?
"I think it was originally on this side but when it moved across the street, it kept the name," says Roberts, who grew up in Haddon Heights but has lived in Barrington for years.
That's the part of Barrington on the other side of White Horse Pike, where most residents have Haddonfield post office addresses, he says.
A head-scratcher to outsiders maybe, but Barrington's houses are much more affordable than single-families in surrounding communities, says Donna Granacher, an agent with Weichert Realtors.
"It's a cute town," she says, using a word that just about everyone mentions, and "you get a lot of house for the money [prices are averaging around $200,000]."
They range from a current listing on Clements Bridge Road, a four-bedroom with basement and garage "in need of some TLC" for $169,000, to $400,000 on the higher end.
"These aren't tract houses like in Mount Laurel, but twins, capes, and older Colonials," Granacher says.
Three of her last sales were to younger buyers who "like older-style homes rather than similarly priced condos or townhouses in nearby towns," she says.
One of those younger buyers was Stephanie Zetusky, 25, who settled on a house in late July with her husband, Edward.
"We had been renting my father's house for the last four years," said Zetusky, who has lived in Barrington all her life.
"We found the house the first day we looked," she said. "We thought it would take longer, and the house had a pool and we weren't sure we wanted one."
One of her major concerns was her daughter, Peyton, 5, who has Down syndrome and is in preschool at Avon Elementary School.
"We looked around at other districts and we believe that Barrington offers the program that will be best for her," she says.
Zetusky can think of no better place than Barrington, and that is a feeling shared by just about everyone you talk with over a couple of days.
Holcombe's parents came here from Philadelphia in 1950, looking for "the rural life," and she and most of her family remain - including her mother, Marie Eckert, 91.
Holcombe's brother, Jim Eckert, is still remembered for his phenomenal performance as quarterback for Haddon Heights High in its 1970 Thanksgiving Day game against Haddonfield.
Jim Eckert was seriously injured in a fall in September and is in rehab at Magee. This year's game was dedicated to him.
"We won," Holcombe says.
Barrington is becoming known for its music.
Of course, it's one of the few towns with its own band, as Holcombe points out, founded in 1912, with 40 players ranging in age from 11 to 80 from several generations of families, and conducted since 1987 by Penny Teter.
The Barrington Coffee House, owned by residents Scott and Donna Trifeletti and their daughter, Patricia, offers an open-mike night and brings in name performers on weekends.
"People come from all over," says Lisa Edwards of Cherry Hill, who has been working there since she graduated from Drexel's nursing school in September.
"It's become a gathering place," Edwards says as she makes a latte at the counter.
Of course, this is the longtime home of Edmunds Optical, which, Holcombe remembers, put on light shows with music in the 1970s. A year ago, Berg Furniture set up manufacturing at the industrial park on Gloucester Pike.
The Roberts' lumberyard was moved from Camden to Barrington in 1973, and though it still carries specialty wood, it has become even better known for Brian Roberts' witticisms posted on the freestanding marquee outside.
"Some people lambast us for what we consider innocent observations," Steve Roberts says. "Others show up with shoe boxes filled with sayings they think we should post."
Barrington by the Numbers
Population: 6,983 (2010)
Median household income: $54,324 (2009)
Size: 1.6 square miles
Homes for sale: 78
Settlements in the last three months: 8
Median days on market: 120
Median sale price (single-family): $170,000
Median sale price (all homes): $170,000
Housing stock: 3,164 units, a mix of pre-World War II and 1950s and 1960s.
School district: Barrington (elementary and middle, Haddon Heights High School).
SOURCES: Census Bureau, Trulia.com, Zillow.com, AmericanHomes.com, City-Data.com, Donna Granacher, Weichert Realtors.
Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @alheavens at Twitter.