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Bottom Line: Hanover Co-op’s operating loss means no refund check for customers

  • 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: 3/7/2020 10:37:54 PM
Modified: 3/7/2020 10:37:51 PM

The Hanover Co-op gained nearly 1,000 new members last year. Unfortunately they — along with about 22,000 other “active” Co-op members — won’t be seeing a “patronage refund” for shopping at the Co-op in 2019.

Despite posting record revenues, the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society, as the upscale market and auto service center is officially known, swung to a loss last year, reporting $73,700 in red ink, according to its 2019 audited financial report released last week.

It was the first loss since 2016 and the third time the Co-op was unable to return a check — even a skimpy one — to members in the past six years.

The 2019 results show that costs at the Co-op outpaced the higher revenues.

For the year, the Co-op reported that revenue increased $2.3 million, or 2.6%, to $76.9 million, compared with $74.6 million in 2018, when it eked out profit of $27,900 after disbursing a “patronage refund” of $108,200 among members.

“It’s not a huge swing when you talk about the size of our business,” Mark Langlois, the Co-op’s director of finance, said of going from black to red.

One factor impacting the Co-op’s profit and loss statement was last year’s move of 40 administrative staff employees from Buck Road in Hanover to an office park in White River Junction. That move involved a charge of $71,500 in “asset disposal” incurred in vacating the Buck Road offices that is recorded against earnings.

Without that charge, the Co-op would have posted pretax income of $34,200, the Co-op said in a news release.

But rising expenses also played a role in dampening results, Langlois said.

“Personnel costs were up from the prior year. Just about every line is. There are some that are down. Some are close to what they were the prior year.” he said.

Higher wholesale costs, along with higher operating costs, caused operating income at the Co-op to tumble 58% to $185,600 last year after it took in $443,900 in 2018.

(By comparison, the Co-op posted an operating loss of $36,100 in 2017 — the last time it did not refund money to members — versus operating profits of $297,800 in 2016 and $838,000 in 2015).

Meanwhile, total employee wages and benefits, which account for fully 66% of the $25 million in operating expenses, were up 7.6% to $16.4 million in 2019 compared with $15.2 million the prior year. The Co-op currently employs 375 people.

Co-op members will get an opportunity to learn more about the Co-op’s financial report at the organization’s annual members meeting on April 4 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Listen Center in White River Junction.

Last month, the Co-op announced that general manager Ed Fox had informed the board he would be leaving in mid-April to take an unspecified new job. The Co-op board has named Paul Guidone, the Co-op’s strategic adviser and member of its leadership team, as interim general manager while the board searches for a permanent successor.

Hanover Haircutters restyles

No excuse for a comb-over in Hanover: The college town can now be included in the renaissance in barbering that has been growing across the country.

Robert Romano’s Hanover Haircutters, which for the past 18 years has operated out of a 300-square-foot alcove on the second floor of the Hanover Park building, has relocated and expanded into a 1,300-square-foot shop in the space formerly occupied by Tanzi’s Salon on South Main Street.

The move is part of an expansion under Ryan Romano, Robert Romano’s son, who had his own barbershop in Stowe, Vt., but recently moved his family to the Upper Valley and has now joined his father as a partner in the business.

“When I came on board in September, there were four of us, and we’ve hired two more,” Ryan Romano said. “Part of me coming down here was to expand and move to a bigger location.”

Romano had added some of his own touches: he’s installed a billiards table and large, flat-screen TV in the barbershop so customers aren’t left to read only People or Field & Stream while waiting for the barber’s chair to open up.

“I’m trying to project a different image,” Romano said.

Romano’s relocation follows Sean Taylor opening his own barbershop inside Roberts Flowers on Lebanon Street last October.

The Romano family have been barbers for more than a century, perhaps even longer, according to Ryan Romano.

“I’m a fourth-generation barber. That we know of. Could be more,” Romano said. “We’ve only tacked it back to 1910.”

Grantham garageback in gear

For three years, the auto repair garage sat vacant at one of the prime highway exit ramps in the Upper Valley, screaming for someone to move in and take over.

Now Jason Stoddard, who operates auto service centers in Charlestown and Walpole, N.H., has answered the call. Stoddard’s JS Automotive has opened its third auto service center in the former Mitchell Automotive building at Sawyer Brook Plaza off Exit 13 in Grantham, which closed in 2017.

“We had been looking into possibly reaching out to another location,” Stoddard said. “And we happened to drive by this place and I was like, to my wife, ‘Honey, look at that!’ And she said, ‘Yeah, look at that. I’m sure you’re all excited.’ ”

Stoddard, 32, who was born and raised in Charlestown but now lives in Alstead, N.H., said he and his crew “twice power-washed floor to ceiling and repainted” the six-bay, five-lift auto shop into spanking-new condition and is now attracting customers for whom nearby auto repair options have been frustratingly few. JS Automotive services both domestic and foreign-made models.

“We specialize in broken cars,” Stoddard said.

Despite ongoing issues with auto shops finding staffing in the Upper Valley, Stoddard has hired a roster of employees who all live nearby: tech and shop foreman Chris Carolin, of Grantham; tech David Hodge, of Canaan; and service rep Suzanne Handley, of Grantham.

Stoddard also has hired one of the few women techs in the area, apprentice tech Kaley Kowalczyk, of Grantham, who trained in both auto mechanics and welding at the votech program in Newport Middle High School.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Stoddard said about his Grantham team.

Also on the team is Stoddard’s 2-year old basset hound, Rigley, who is available for consultations (when not sleeping).

Margaritas out of the mix

Word leaked out last week that Snax, the new Lebanon restaurant to be opened later this year by Molly’s and Jesse’s owner Blue Sky Restaurant Group, will be taking over the Margaritas Mexican Restaurant located at Centerra in Lebanon.

A spokesperson for Margaritas, which opened in Lebanon 15 years ago, said staff were informed Thursday that the restaurant will close in June.

Blue Sky owner Tony Barnett said he hopes Margaritas’ staff continue after the takeover with Snax, which is planned as an American “tapas-style” restaurant and bar. Barnett said he’s meeting with Margaritas management to “iron out a good plan to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone” and he’d like the staff “join our team immediately” after Margaritas closes.

But given the low unemployment in the Upper Valley, Barnett acknowledged that holding onto Margaritas staff could prove a challenge, given other opportunities out there.

“We need to figure out how to make this the most attractive option,” he said.

Upper Valley commerce groups join forces

Nearly four months after the Lebanon and Hanover business chambers merged to form the Upper Valley Business Alliance, now the UVBA has taken over the Upper Valley Young Professionals, a group of 20- to 40-somethings that combines professional networking with volunteering at social services nonprofits like The Upper Valley Haven. UVYP’s current board will become an “advisory steering committee” of UVBA, the groups said.

Both groups, faced with the disruption caused by social media and the internet on the traditional roles played by business chambers and professional networking, have been pivoting to focus on employer workforce development and selling potential employees on the virtues of living and working in the Upper Valley.

Merging with UVBA will “elevate our ability to provide networking, volunteering and professional development to young professionals in our region,” UVYP co-chairwoman Elizabeth Edwards, a teacher at Kimball Union Academy, said in a news release.

My business is knowing your business. Contact me at jlippman@vnews.com.

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