Sunday, October 22 , 2017, 2:06 am | Fair 53º

 
 
 
 

Judy Foreman: Sandwich Generations Mourn John Braid, Montecito’s King of Meat and Cheese

Owner of popular Village Cheese & Wine Store dies at 84, leaving a legacy of just-the-basics ‘half on a whole’ and legions of well-fed fans

The late John Braid, owner of Village Cheese & Wine Store in Montecito’s Upper Village. Basic fare of meat and cheese and a minimal menu are all part of the sandwich shop’s appeal, but Braid’s knack for remembering names, faces and orders was legendary among loyal locals. Click to view larger
The late John Braid, owner of Village Cheese & Wine Store in Montecito’s Upper Village. Basic fare of meat and cheese and a minimal menu are all part of the sandwich shop’s appeal, but Braid’s knack for remembering names, faces and orders was legendary among loyal locals. (Village Cheese & Wine Store photo via Facebook)

John Braid, father of five, grandfather of six, and the longtime proprietor of Village Cheese & Wine Store in Montecito’s Upper Village, died Jan. 27. He was 84.

If we stop right there, that’s ample evidence of a life well lived.

But the description fails to capture the iconic nature of Braid, a New Zealand immigrant with a Kiwi accent and a mop of white hair, whose no-frills sandwich shop fed generations of Montecito Union School students, surfers, construction workers, and thousands of other locals of every age and income level.

Open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, lunchtime customers usually can be found queued up right out the door of the venerable store at 1485 East Valley Road, near Via Vai Trattoria Pizzeria.

The shop is a popular after-school hangout for elementary school kids, and older ones, too — even adults who graduated from Montecito Union decades before.

The spacious lawn in front is one of the safest places to walk to from the nearby MUS campus, and offers children an open place to congregate with friends and eat sandwiches while waiting for their parents to pick them up.

Simple, fun, innocent and safe, it truly embodies why urban transplants love Montecito.

Of course, besides using good quality meats, cheese, fresh-baked bread and minimal condiments, the basic fare of meat and cheese is often what kids love best.

“A half on a whole. Yellow or Dijon?” Braid’s choices were few but he had something for everyone.

Braid always remembered kids’ names, a shot of self-esteem for youngsters even after they had grown up.

My youngest daughter, Lizzy, now 23, is one of them, and it delights her still when she’s home from college.

Longtime Village Cheese & Wine Store employees Kelly Stanford, left, and Victoria Delgado, with two of their young fans. Click to view larger
Longtime Village Cheese & Wine Store employees Kelly Stanford, left, and Victoria Delgado, with two of their young fans. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo via iPhone)

“How ya doin’, Liz?” Braid would call out when she came in for lunch. “How are your sister, Julia, and your brother, Rob?”

He also always seemed to know what she liked, even before she had ordered. Talk about customer service.

No pretense, no glitz or glam or prima donnas. A sandwich, soda or juice, chips and, if your mom is in a good mood, some candy. It’s predictable and comforting and speaks to the store’s longevity.

A recent Yelp posting said it best: “The consensus is unanimous: great customer service, a simple sandwich that you could make at home but some how tasted better there!”

Braid also filled his store shelves with miscellaneous dry goods from Britain like English biscuits, mint jelly or Cadbury chocolate bars, wine and imported cheeses.

The kids, of course, are more interested in the candy and chips strategically located with the chips by the cash registers.

At lunch, customers typically wait in a long, orderly line, visiting with fellow customers, while Braid’s longtime co-workers, Victoria Delgado and Kelly Stanford, helped him with each made-to-order sandwich.

Delgado worked with Braid for 22 years, Stanford for 10.

Neighboring store owner Clare Swan and her daughter, Stella, recently dropped by the Village Cheese & Wine Store with some artwork to pay tribute to their friend, the late John Braid. Click to view larger
Neighboring store owner Clare Swan and her daughter, Stella, recently dropped by the Village Cheese & Wine Store with some artwork to pay tribute to their friend, the late John Braid. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo via iPhone)

“He was not only my boss, but my best friend,” Stanford told Noozhawk.

“John was like the Pied Piper for kids,” Delgado added. “He was the kindest and most generous of souls.”

On a visit late last week, the shop hummed along like some of the fancy cars that fill the parking lot these days.

“Both ladies loved my dad dearly and really stepped up to the plate for him in running and operating the shop in his final days and months,” Braid’s son, Patrick, told me, referring to his father’s devoted employees.

Clare Swan, a neighboring store owner, mourned Braid’s passing, and the era his death seemed to close.

“The community has lost an important member,” she said. “They just don’t make them like John anymore.”

The next generation of the Village Cheese & Wine Store fan club. Click to view larger
The next generation of the Village Cheese & Wine Store fan club. (Judy Foreman / Noozhawk photo via iPhone)

Braid immigrated to the United States from New Zealand, where he had grown up in an orphanage. Before coming to America, he worked in a sheep-shearing gang and on a ranch until inheriting a wine store in Wellington from his mother, Ethel, which Patrick Braid said “was the impetus for acquiring the Village Cheese & Wine.”

Braid moved to Santa Barbara in 1974, shortly after marrying his wife, Jovita, a pen pal who was living in Mexico. They settled on Santa Barbara because she felt it was the most beautiful city she had seen during her world travels. Shortly afterward, Braid became the shop’s owner.

An avid surfer until later in his life, Braid never lost his slim physique or New Zealand accent. The store’s vibe reflects his love of surfing. Surfing photos, surfing magazines and surfing posters line the walls.

Village Cheese & Wine Store is perfectly suited for a small beach town with a strong surf culture and a devoted clientele that prefers board shorts, flips-flops and T-shirts year round.

The upscale neighborhood that Montecito has become actually grew up around Braid’s place, but he never changed his formula.

It is not hard to imagine Braid still catching a wave or two at Hammonds. He will be sorely missed, and we will always remember his name.

Braid’s funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara, 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez, Suite 21. A public paddle-out is planned to celebrate his life. Call the shop at 805.969.3815 for details.

— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >