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Bottom Line: That Little Spot of Red going dark in Hanover

  • John Lippman. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 8/24/2019 10:08:32 PM
Modified: 8/24/2019 10:08:30 PM

We’ve lost count how many retail shops have closed in Hanover, but add another to the list: card and stationery store That Little Spot of Red, which has operated on the back side of the Nugget Arcade for the past 13 years, will close on Wednesday.

Downtown Hanover merchants have been distressed for some time over how the character of South Main Street has shifted away from a shopping destination, which was symbolized by the closing of the Dartmouth Bookstore last December. Although a new apparel store and combination bar/cafe/bookstore will be opening in the former bookstore space, several prominent storefronts in town remain vacant — including one on the front side of the Nugget Arcade building.

“There’s no (customer) traffic coming into Hanover anymore,” said Laura Lichiello, the owner of That Little Spot of Red. “I’m just making enough to open my doors for the landlord. I can’t do it anymore.”

That Little Spot of Red — the store’s name was partially inspired by the Zippy the Pinhead comic strip whose protagonist wears a red-polka-dot clown outfit — sold fine stationery, journals, pens and inks, artful wrapping paper, custom invitations, and wallets in addition to an eclectic collection of greeting cards. Lichiello tried to ensure the products she stocked were made from recycled paper.

Lichiello, a Meriden resident whose husband, Joseph Crate, managed the Essentials for Men apparel store for 25 years in the Hanover Park building before it, too, closed in 2015, notes that the disappearance of retail stores has a multiplier effect: every time a store closes, it acts as a disincentive for other shoppers to come into town, hurting the business of those that remain.

“I have customers who used to come in every month who haven’t been here in a year,” she said.

Lichiello has been a career retailer. Trained at Macy’s in Albany, N.Y., she later worked at Lord & Taylor in Boston — where she met her husband who also was working there at the time — and for more than 10 years ran the card and gifts department at the Dartmouth Bookstore before opening That Little Spot of Red in 2006.

“If I was doing well, I’d stay,” Lichiello said. “Some of my customers have been with me for over 20 years. They started with me over at the bookstore. It’s really hard for me to close.”

From minding class to minding the store

Two longtime Upper Valley educators have switched from class rolls to lobster roll.

Elaine Arbour, former superintendent of the Rivendell Interstate School District, and her husband, Kurt Gergler, former principal at Grantham Village School and Maple Avenue Elementary School in Claremont, have become the new proprietors of Anne’s Plainfield Country Convenience Store.

The romance of running a small country store has its challenges in the age of corporate chains dotting the roadsides, but Arbour said she and her husband see the Plainfield store — “Anne’s” has been dropped and the name shortened to Plainfield Country Store — with its loyal customers as a second-career opportunity that was too unique to pass up.

“We’d been talking for a long time about wanting to own our business,” Arbour said the other day on the phone while preparing for the lunch surge at the popular Route 12A breakfast and lunch counter and gas station. “We want to engage with the community, and I love to cook, and we both like to stay active. ... We came here first as customers and really liked it and then came back to the table as buyers.”

Arbour and Gergler — for now Gergler is continuing to consult as a school psychologist and pitching in at the store on weekends — bought the business from Anne Yates, who owned the Plainfield store for the past nine years and is credited with bringing it back from the dead with locally raised meats, a catering operation and friendly neighborhood service.

Yates said she is looking forward to spending more time with her family and growing business of wool and yarn sourced from sheep raised on her West Windsor farm, although customers can still expect to see her at the store for a couple months.

Arbour and Gergler, who live in Sunapee, “want to learn everything from me so I’ll be here until October helping them out,” Yates said.

Arbour said she and her husband are looking at keeping everything pretty much the same but will be adding their own flourishes to the menu.

“I’m a vegetarian but my husband eats meat so we are finding things that work for both. ... This is only my third week, so I don’t have a long history yet,” she said.

Picaboo, we don’t see you

Anyone noticing that the name Picaboo is no longer affixed in big white letters to the outside of Hanover’s historic Rosey Jekes building on Lebanon Street and seeing a “for lease” sign in the window may wonder where the business went.

Turns out that venture capital-backed Picaboo, a tech startup that offers an online application for users to design custom paper-bound photo books from digital pictures, quietly split in two a couple years ago. The consumer division was sold to Rochester, N.Y.-based SoftPrint Holdings, and the yearbook division was merged into Vidigami Media, a Vancouver provider of software for yearbooks.

Norwich resident Bill Miles, who ran Picaboo’s yearbook division, is CEO of Vidigami, which he now runs out of the Alpha Delta fraternity house-turned-office space on East Wheelock Street. Miles said that after the former Picaboo employees — at one time there were about 10 people based in Hanover as most of the company’s 50-some employees worked in other states — “transitioned” following the sale of the company, the space in Rosey Jekes was no longer needed and the company vacated in April.

As it turns out, the former AD house is now a mini-incubator of sorts. Former Picaboo co-founder CEO Kevin McCurdy is also co-founder with Boloco owner John Pepper in Worthee, a mobile app designed to help hourly wage earners support each other through feedback and improve their productivity and pay.

Pepper, when he’s not preoccupied with Norwich town affairs as chairman of the Selectboard, can himself be found these days working out of the former AD house, where he also spent a fair amount of time as a fraternity brother during his Dartmouth days.

Comings & goings

After mulling leasing the property to another business, brothers Allen and Charlie Hall have put their former Gateway Motors property on Sykes Mountain Avenue on the sales block. Asking price: a cool $6.5 million, indicating just how hot the commercial corridor has become now that several auto dealerships have gravitated there. Cam Brown at McLaughry Lang Commercial Real Estate is handling the sale ... The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is putting the finishing touches on its new 19,000-square-foot retail store going up in the parking lot of the Weathervane restaurant in West Lebanon and expects to open the outlet in mid-September, according to a spokesperson for the NHLC ... Ace Blueprint Services, owned and operated by Bill Avery, has relocated a half-mile south on Route 12A in West Lebanon from the Glen Road Plaza to the LaValley’s Colonial Plaza. Avery, who has run the blueprint business for 22 years, called the end unit space he now occupies a great spot. ”And the contractors love it because they drive by two to three times a day for supplies,” he said.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.




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