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Bottom Line: Hanover kitchenware store cooking up new recipe in two new locations

  • 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: 8/8/2020 9:42:24 PM
Modified: 8/8/2020 9:42:22 PM

Main Street Kitchens is moving off Main Street.

The kitchenware store that has been a mainstay on Hanover’s South Main Street for 23 years is relocating to Allen Street, in the side-street space that was the longtime home of the Folk crafts store.

“We are moving off of Main Street because the rents, which were already tough for us before the pandemic, are even tougher now and we are trying to lower our overhead due to uncertain times we live in now and the uncertain times ahead,” said Dave Barrette, who with his wife, Kaitlyn Barrette, bought Main Street Kitchens from founders Mary and Marv Schouten in 2018.

The move is part of a two-step approach the Barrettes are pursuing to build their business. Earlier this year they bought the former Allen Pools & Spas building near the VA hospital in White River Junction and plan to open a second Main Street Kitchens store and showroom later this year.

“We’re going to have a smaller space in Hanover and a larger space in Hartford,” Dave Barrette said. “All that for two-thirds of overhead we pay currently.”

Although the Allen Street store will open Saturday, the Barrettes are keeping the South Main Street store open until the end of the month as they gradually transition stock to the new location and make customers aware of the move. The Allen Street storefront was briefly occupied by AroMed Essentials, which opened last summer and sold CBD and aromatherapy products before closing its doors because of the pandemic.

Barrette said that everything from the top floor of the South Main Street store, which includes cookware, cutlery, equipment and specialty foods, and “bestsellers” from the lower level — homekeeping and bath items — will move to Allen Street. The White River Junction location, with 2,800 square feet, will be able to carry a full complement of merchandise.

In addition, the WRJ location will have ample parking, which will ease curbside pickup and accommodate a shipping center for their expanding online business.

The Barrettes are local kids who returned to the Upper Valley three years ago after launching their careers in other states. Dave grew up in Hanover and graduated from Kimball Union Academy in 2005, and Kaitlyn (née Sanders) grew up in Norwich and graduated from Hanover High, Class of 2000. Before they became small business owners, Dave was a chef at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and Kaitlyn was an attorney.

Since they took over Main Street Kitchens, the Barrettes have added an online store platform — launched in May, it already accounts for 5% of sales — and Dave introduced cooking classes.

Indeed, the White River Junction location even has enough room to install a teaching kitchen for Barrette, which he concedes is a possibility although not a priority.

“First we need to get the store established and past COVID before we invest six figures in a kitchen,” Barrette said.

So, if Main Street Kitchens is no longer on South Main Street, will it still be named Main Street Kitchens?

Stick to the recipe that works, Barrette advises.

“We are keeping the same name. It has been that name for 23 years,” Barrette said. “We feel as though the name can refer to ‘Main Street America’ in the sense that we are a family-owned small business in the heart of Hanover.”

Wheels up for Claremont’s John Lambert

One of the Upper Valley’s best-known names in auto sales has sold his dealership to one of the Upper Valley’s newest names in autos.

John Lambert, whose family has owned Lambert Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Claremont since 1968, has sold the dealership to Ford of Claremont owner Christian (Chris) Gomes.

The sale, which closed July 17, caps a 48-year career in the car business for Lambert, who joined his father’s dealership in 1972.

Gomes, who formerly owned a dealership on Long Island, brought a Ford franchise back to Claremont when he opened the new 19,000-square-foot facility on Charlestown Road in 2018.

Lambert, 71, said he “still has the fire in my belly and energy to do a full day’s work” but he added that relentless “corporate pressure to get bigger” is changing the auto business. Gomes, he said, “made a very generous offer” for Lambert’s dealership and 20-acre property on River Road.

“But that was not the decisive factor for me,” Lambert explained, declining to reveal the terms. “What mattered to me is Christian’s reputation in the community. He treats his employees and customers well. And he’s an on-site owner, and that’s important to me.”

Gomes has kept all of Lambert’s 21 employees — including grandfathering their vacation time — and eventually plans to relocate the Chrysler dealership adjacent to his Ford dealership on Charlestown Road.

“It needs to be up here with the other dealerships. It makes it easier for the customers,” Gomes said, adding that the plans are currently in the early “engineering phase” and that the former dealership would likely be used for inventory storage.

He vowed that regardless of the change of ownership “everything remains the same ... except the name” (the dealership is now called Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Claremont).

Gomes also acquired Lambert’s auto parts business, which, with an inventory of $4 million, serves the auto parts needs of other Chrysler dealerships throughout New England and is one of the largest in the Northeast.

“I saw the opportunity,” Gomes said about buying Lambert’s dealership. “John was ready to take a step back. I kind of do business the same way John does. I’m always in the store. I’m not an absentee owner.”

In recent years, there has been a turnover of family-owned dealerships in the Upper Valley as longtime owners have retired and sold out to large auto groups.

Rick MacLeay in December closed White River Hyundai, and the Sykes Mountain Avenue lot is now the used car business of McGee Family Used Cars.

MacLeay followed Kurt Gerrish of Gerrish Honda, Tom Thayer of Flanders and Patch Ford, brothers Allen and Charlie Hall of Gateway Motors, Peter Mans of Subaru of Claremont and brothers Rob and Rick Devalk of Howe Motors in Claremont, all of whom sold their dealerships.

As for Lambert, he’s still going to be involved with wheels, albeit of a different sort.

A longtime cycling enthusiast, Lambert also owns Claremont Cycle Depot, which is next door to the dealership.

“My daughter and the store manager run it by themselves,” Lambert said of the cycle business. “I’ll spend more time there. I’ll be the fixer-upper.”

The fine print ...

The Engine Room in White River Junction has run out of steam, again. The music and party venue space owned by Upper Valley real estate magnate Mike Davidson has had a number of reincarnations and operators in recent years. Most recently The Engine Room had been taken over by Big Fatty’s BBQ and Maple Street Catering owner Brandon Fox.

But Fox posted on Facebook that the pandemic has wiped out any business that counts upon drawing crowds. He closed the doors July 1 and is marketing the venue as a “turn-key operation” for “anyone ... looking for an opportunity to start something or in need of a kitchen.”

Norwich Solar Technologies said it has been awarded a $1.1 million grant by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a low-cost hybrid solar power system that can deliver renewable energy 24 hours a day with the use of long-duration thermal energy storage.

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Email me at jlippman@vnews.com.




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