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Canoe Club Sold; Thai Orchid Closes in Hanover

  • Canoe Club bartender Daniel Levitt mixes a martini while pouring a Guiness for customers at the Canoe Club in Hanover, N.H., Friday, July 14, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • John Chapin arrives at the Canoe Club in Hanover, N.H., Friday night, July 14, 2017. Chapin closed on the sale of the restaurant on Thursday. "I want to throw my energy into a new project of a non-entrepreneurial nature," said Chapin, who opened the restaurant and bar in 2003. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • After over 13 years at the helm of the Canoe Club in Hanover, N.H., John Chapin, left, has sold the restaurant and bar to to bartender Daniel Levitt, right, who has been on staff since the establishment opened in 2003. Chapin talks with Levitt between at the bar in Hanover, N.H. Friday, July 14,2 017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Business Writer
Sunday, July 16, 2017

Hanover — A third major change to the Hanover restaurant scene in recent months came on Friday when Canoe Club owner John Chapin announced that he has sold the popular Main Street establishment to its longtime bartender and two executives affiliated with Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business.

The Canoe Club’s sale follows the closing of Thai Orchid earlier this month and the closing of Everything But Anchovies in May.

In a Friday morning news release, Chapin announced that bartender Daniel Levitt had bought the restaurant in partnership with Daniella Reichstetter, executive director of entrepreneurship at Tuck’s Center for Private Equity and Entrepreneurship, and Curt Welling, a senior fellow with Tuck’s Center for Business, Government and Society and a former business executive.

Canoe Club is a favorite watering hole for Tuck students, and Levitt said in the news release that the new ownership team hopes “to continue the best traditions of the Canoe Club while simultaneously adding new elements to attract additional fresh clientele.”

Welling added that the restaurant has an “enviable reputation in the Upper Valley that we will seek to refresh and redefine over the next year.”

“We will be making some changes to the business over the next several months,” Reichstetter said via email in reply to a request for comment.

Neither Chapin nor members of the buying group responded to phone messages seeking additional comment.

Chapin, who has owned restaurants in Hartford, Conn., and also served as press secretary to former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland from 1995 to 1998, opened Canoe Club in the space formerly occupied by Mexican restaurant Mojo’s Bistro. Chapin, then 55, aimed to bring a live music venue to the college town, which it lacked at the time. Canoe Club still offers live acoustic music six nights a week.

Meanwhile, Thai Orchid, which operated under two different owners over 18 years on the second floor of the former Campion’s clothing store at the corner of Main and Lebanon streets, closed abruptly earlier this month, with the owner announcing on Facebook that she plans to reopen at a new location in Lebanon.

Thai Orchid’s closing followed the shuttering of Hanover pizza eatery Everything But Anchovies in May after its owner said that a variety of negative factors, including the opening of a new Domino’s Pizza in West Lebanon that cut into late-night pizza delivery sales, led to a decline in business.

“You can copy every word from the EBA’s closing,” Robert Lamprey, husband of Thai Orchid owner-chef Pim Pinitmontri, said in explaining the reasons that led to Thai Orchid’s closing. Lamprey assists his wife in running the business.

“There are a lot of issues in Hanover. Parking is really a problem. Retail is pretty much dead, so people don’t come by to shop any longer. The Hop is not as active, and rents are very, very high,” he said. “We feel Lebanon is going to be much more conducive to doing business.”

He declined to address the impact on Thai Orchid from Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine, a competing Thai restaurant that was opened down the street in 2015 by a former Thai Orchid cook. The move ignited a feud between Pinitmontri and her former employee that spilled onto public internet postings.

“We’re trying to leave that behind,” Lamprey said.

Lamprey said he and Pinitmontri are in negotiations for a “tentative location” for their restaurant, but declined to identify it because they have yet to sign a lease.

“We’ll probably do it in stages, starting with to-go and delivery while we seek permits for a small dining room ... it will be about half the size we had” at the Hanover location, he said.

“We had a very loyal following and many people said they were sad to see us leave Hanover,” Lamprey said.

Before Lamprey and Pinitmontri took over Thai Orchid four years ago, the restaurant operated under the name Mai Thai for 14 years.

Lamprey said he is working on “getting funding” and beginning the permitting process to reopen Thai Orchid. Another advantage to moving to Lebanon, Lamprey said, is that it should be easier to staff the restaurant: Finding employees in Hanover had always been a challenge because the high cost of housing makes it “too expensive for anyone to live close to there,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kata Thai Kitchen, the Thai restaurant that opened in 2016 on Allen Street across from Everything But Anchovies, is changing its name to Pho Q and broadening its menu to include both Vietnamese dishes and samosas prepared on-site by Fuad Ndibalema, who has been selling his pastries stuffed with meat and cheese at the Hanover and Lebanon farmers markets for several years.

Janet Wong, who bought the 19-month-old Kata Thai restaurant from the Chompupong family in February, said she was expanding the menu because there were too many Thai restaurants in Hanover vying for customers.

“I think three is too much; two is good,” Wong said in an interview.

Wong, who formerly owned J’s Nails & Waxing on Hanover Street in Lebanon, said she will be keeping some of the popular Thai dishes such as pad thai, fried rice and curries on the menu. She plans to add Vietnamese rice noodle and broth dishes that include meats and herbs and Vietnamese baguette sandwiches known as banh mi. She said Vietnamese food is characterized by its lightness and freshness; it uses less oil, which she believes will appeal to health-conscious diners.

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin observed that the college town’s restaurants all are grappling with the changing eating habits and preferences of Dartmouth College students, who historically have been steady patrons of Hanover’s eateries but increasingly are availing themselves of food trucks and “the growing popularity of food coming to you.”

On top of the shift in eating habits, the restaurant business always has been brutally competitive, and the entry of a new player can quickly upend longtime establishments, Griffin noted.

“I think it was the arrival of Tuk Tuk that really made it difficult for” Thai Orchid, she said, “How many Thai restaurants can you support?” And Everything But Anchovies “really felt the impact of Domino’s aggressive marketing techniques,” she said.

Hanover developer Jay Campion, who owns the building in which Thai Orchid leased space, said via email that he does not yet have a new tenant for the space but said the next occupant may not be another restaurant.

“We are just beginning to examine the options for the space. It’s such a great space for a wide range of uses, so you can be sure we’ll be exploring all of them,” he said.

As for the reason Thai Orchid closed, “let’s just say that the restaurant business is very competitive,” Campion said.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com or 603-727-3219.