*Please look for our cover story on the Caine's son, Pat Caine and his work with local youth, up on the website on Sunday, April 13. A photo gallery will also be included with that story. *
By Victoria Vlisides
Tom and Jeanne Caine know what Fitchburg was like before it was “The City of Fitchburg.”
When it was just a town, Tom, now 81, grew up on the family dairy farm on Byrne Road, while Jeanne, now 80, grew up on a farm in the Oregon area. Before they opened their own saddle shop in Fitchburg, Tom recalls going to grade school in a one-room schoolhouse on Whalen Road that’s no longer there, while Jeannie went to Oregon for grade school.
His parents, Joe and Hazel Caine, were also Fitchburg natives, and between the two of them, spent decades working as town clerk.
Jeanne and Tom both went to Edgewood High School and were married in their early 20s in 1953.
For leisure, the two would frequent squre dance halls in the area including one at Fitchburg town hall, where the dances were called by Bill McKee Sr.
In the 1940s, they took over the family dairy farm (that also had horses) on Byrne Road. They operated the farm with Tom’s brother, Jack, before he passed away in 1970.
The Caines started a family-owned saddle shop in 1955, and they still own and operate the business today.
Caine’s Saddle Shop, located at 5076 Byrne Road, which basically defines the term "mom-and-pop shop,” serves a niche audience in the area of people who raise or ride horses. It houses assortments of horse gear for riding, like saddles and boots, but also has horse-care products. Tom and Jeanne run the shop from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.
Their lone employee, Jamie Lynch, of Fitchburg, has helped them with the business for nearly 30 years. As an Oregon High School graduate, Lynch sort of fell into the expertise and now does vintage saddle restoration (some are from as far back as 1930) and other jobs around the store, which is connected to the Caines’ residence.
While business has taken a hit from online outlets that sell similar products, the Caines still have generations of families coming back to their store, as well as out-of-state customers who come for the chance to try out equipment before they purchase it.
“We saw the people who come in now with their kids, when they were coming in knee-high when we started the business,” Jeanne said.
“It’s neat seeing all the families,” Tom said.
Though they’ve been at it for decades, Tom and Jeanne don’t have any plans to retire soon.
“We really loved every minute of it,” Jeannie said. “I’ve got no idea to retire. I love it so much that I don’t even want to.”