Antique Gun Shop Planned for Plainfield
Rich Lee hangs dry wall in Plainfield, N.H. on Sept. 4, 2013. The property a former general store has been bought by Paul Yates. Yates will be opening The Collector's Armory, an antique and collectible firearm store. He will also sell camping and hunting gear. The store will be open in the fall. Lee is a gunsmith and will be working in the shop, he said he has been tinkering with guns since he was ten years old. Valley News - (Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
Plainfield — After almost a decade of sitting idle, there’s new life coming to the Plainfield General Store.
New owner Paul Yates is busy remodeling the 1906 building and hopes to open The Collector’s Armory, an antique and collectable firearm store, in the next few months, he said last week.
“We’ve got a ways to go, but we’re not in a hurry. We’re not going to open until we feel like it’s perfect, and we have the ability to do it right,” Yates said.
The building is being restored and remodeled to look much as it would when it was originally constructed, and the business will have the look and feel of an old-time gun shop.
Yates’ efforts are beginning to take shape. There’s new drywall and the 12-foot ceilings have a fresh coat of paint. The old store’s cafe counter stands by the front door with classic ice cream parlor stools waiting nearby ready to be installed. Glass cabinets to hold antique weapons line up on one wall, and other furnishings are scattered about the wide-plank wooden floors.
“Customers will come in and be able to have a free cup of coffee and sit at the bar as you enter, and there will be a poker table set up by the window where people can play cards if they want to while they’re waiting. But there will be no gambling. It’s going to look like a gun shop might have at the end of the 19th century,” he said.
Rich Lee, who lives in Springfield, N.H., and is helping Yates with the renovations, has signed on to be a full-time gunsmith. Grafton resident Mike Palermo also will be a smith for the business on a part-time basis. He spent 15 years learning the craft at Strum, Ruger, Yates said. “I’m going to be learning from them.”
The store’s old commercial kitchen, with its ventilation system, will work well as an area to perform gun bluing, a rust-protection process that is often shipped out to contractors.
The business has received town zoning and site plan approval, and the final planning OK should not be a problem, Town Administrator Steve Halleran said last week.
“Every one has been very supportive. We’re excited about seeing the building being used again,” he said.
For many years the store was a social focal point for Plainfield. Originally, the general store also had a bank and a post office operating under one roof, and the owners lived upstairs, said Halleran, who grew up in the town.
“All those things have gone a different way now. The bank went out of business, the post office moved to a new facility and we do our grocery shopping in West Lebanon. It just doesn’t work as a general store any more, and it’s nice to see new activity going on there.”
The store has had a number of owners over the years, and when it closed in 1999, there was an effort to get the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society to put a branch in the building.
But the store was purchased by Lynn Caple, who renovated the building and ran the business with his family. They put in a cafe along with the groceries, but the business suffered without gasoline pumps, which had been removed by a previous owner. In 2004, Caple gave the building back to the mortgage holder and closed the business.
The Co-op idea surfaced again after Caple left, but the store failed to materialize.
Selling vintage guns and offering gun-repair service might be the right answer for the building, Halleran said. “It’s nice to see somebody trying to improve it. We wish him well.”
Yates, who moved with his wife and three sons from the Boston area in August to the quarters over the store, owns the Farragut hotel and a restaurant in Lowell, Mass., a building he restored to National Registry of Historic Places specifications.
The business is doing well and is well-managed, he said, which allowed the family to move to the Upper Valley. “It was really a quality-of-life thing. We wanted a better place to raise our kids,” he said. “I’ve been working in restaurants for over 20 years, and doing this business and living up here has been a dream I’ve had for a long time.”
Warren Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3216.