Bottom line: Hanover brings new tradition from the Old World with outdoor Christmas market

  • 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: 12/12/2020 10:51:36 PM
Modified: 12/12/2020 10:51:34 PM

2020 has been a rough year for Hanover merchants as the pandemic has forced several restaurants and retail shops to close, leaving empty storefronts in the heart of the town.

Now, to help downtown businesses this holiday season, Town Manager Julia Griffin is turning to an economic model that has roots in medieval Europe.

Griffin, long fascinated by the Weihnachtsmarkt — Christmas market — or street markets that pop up in German towns and cities during Advent, is market-testing the Old World tradition in Hanover.

“I got back from Thanksgiving and had a staff meeting and said, ‘Hey, guys, I have an idea,’ ” an exclamation that, she said, sometimes earns “eye rolls and emoji faces.”

Griffin’s idea is born out of her own excursions to European Christmas markets, which she toured two years ago with her daughter and led her to wonder if “we could do something like this here as a way to encourage local business and get people to shop locally, which we really need this year.”

The “like this” has morphed into the “Hanover Festival of Lights,” which is supplanting the business chamber’s usual holiday-time shopping-boosting event for Hanover merchants.

With the assistance of various municipal departments, South Main Street has been “enhanced” with light displays, “illuminated wreaths,” building decorations, dressed storefronts and 18 Christmas trees harvested by Orford tree farmer John O’Brien which have been placed around downtown.

The centerpiece of the festival is wooden sheds — built by volunteers from the fire department and contractor Trumbull-Nelson — set down in front of Umpleby’s, Ramunto’s, Murphy’s, Lou’s, Pine and Jewel of India to serve as food kiosks each weekend in December and over the four days before Christmas.

The restaurants can use the kiosks, which have electricity, to serve food outdoors to people on the go.

And on the first weekend at least, customers lined up, according to Lou’s owner Jarett Berke. Lou’s poured out hot cocoa, coffee, hot apple cider and offered fresh cider doughnuts from the sidewalk kiosk.

“We put a little heater in there, and it’s been working out well. ... We didn’t really expect it to be so busy and we ended up running out” of items to sell, Berke said via email.

“Hopefully, this weekend (will be) like last weekend and the town will look alive again!” he added.

Typically in past years, the Upper Valley Business Alliance organized its annual Celebrate the Season event on the first Friday of December but “with COVID cases rising, we just could not find a way to hold it in a safe manner,” said Tracy Hutchins, executive director of the UVBA, noting the town’s limits on group gatherings also complicated plans.

Hutchins said that because some people are wary about going into stores, the UVBA is hosting “couch surfing” nights via Facebook Live where store merchants stream live, 10-minute show-and-tell video tours of merchandise, which viewers can buy online from the store or order by phone.

“The idea is to promote the business, and hopefully people watching will call in or go online and place holiday shopping orders or visit the business sometime during the shopping season,” she said. “This is the year to try new things.”

High performance in Lebanon

It will not surprise anyone to know that gyms and health clubs have been struggling during the pandemic.

So it might seem a surprising time for Cioffredi & Associates to open a new Sports Performance Center for one-on-one athlete training and physical rehabilitation.

But Cioffredi’s new athletic training center is not meant for typical gym rats.

The Lebanon physical therapy provider has taken over 3,000 square feet on the first floor of its building on Etna Road, which formerly was occupied by Fujifilm, where it is combining its PT staff with what it calls “state-of-the-art techniques and equipment to create a safe, high-performance training experience for athletes and fitness enthusiasts that is unparalleled in New England.”

Long known as a place to go to learn how to heal the damage done by sloppy ergonomic habits or a rotator cuff tear, Cioffredi wants to leverage its expertise in physical therapy for high-performance athletic training, according to Matt Goodell, director of marketing for Cioffredi.

He said the programs offered through the Sports Performance Center — all one-on-one instruction — are designed to “break through existing training barriers, optimizing your movement and getting you to the next level.”

To that end, Cioffredi has invested in the kind of equipment more common at a Swiss spa for Olympians than at a physical therapist’s office in rural New Hampshire.

That includes pneumatic variable resistance strength training equipment from Keiser and NeuFit machines, cyborg-like pieces of equipment that deliver electrical stimulation to muscles to remedy neuromuscular dysfunction. Cioffredi acquired four NeuFit machines, which cost $20,000 apiece, and boasts they are the only ones “north of Connecticut.”

Cioffredi has also hired four new therapists, bringing their number to 11 in Lebanon and two at a satellite office in Grantham, in anticipation of the extension in its business.

“We really see high-performance (training) as the next space for us. No one is doing this in the region,” Goodell said.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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