Business Notes for Sept. 23

Valley News Business Writer
Sunday, September 23, 2018

Two White River Junction insurance agencies have merged, bringing two familiar names under one roof and ending a friendly family rivalry that spans two generations.

Parker Insurance Agency, begun in 1972 by former Hartford selectboard member Ken Parker and Kinney Pike Insurance, with roots dating back to 1904, have combined to form a single operation under the Kinney Pike name.

The merger unites two names that each have long histories and associations in White River Junction and Hartford: At one time Parker and Wendell Barwood, the late father of Kinney Pike principal Justin Barwood, had offices across the street from each other on Gates Street. Barwood — whose name is memorialized on the Wendell Barwood Arena in the village — later sold his Barwood Insurance Agency to Kinney Pike, then known as Kinney, Pike, Bell & Conner.

“Wendell probably has a big grin right now knowing his son gobbled up my agency,” Parker laughed.

Parker said he and his two full-time employees, Donna Cushman and Judy Laribee, have moved to Kinney Pike, where Parker said he will work “on a reduced scale.”

“One of the things that made this an appealing proposition for me is my clients will be well served by a professional organization that knows the Upper Valley well and I felt I could contribute as far as some sales production,” he said.

Justin Barwood, who joined Kinney Pike in 1993 and became one of the firm’s three principals along with Doug Corman and Peter Warner in 2009, said combining the two agencies was “always a conversation we had” but picked up steam six months ago as Parker, 71, began thinking about scaling back in advance of retirement.

“Ken was always concerned that his clients and employees have a place to continue being serviced and to work,” Barwood said. “A lot of the carriers he has good relationships with, we have as well. There were a lot of good, positive reasons to merge.”

Kinney Pike now has seven offices in Vermont and about 70 employees on staff.

The Parker name has been synonymous with downtown White River Junction for 80 years: Ken Parker’s uncle operated the Junction Restaurant, in the building adjacent to what is now C+S Pizza, which was later acquired by his parents and where Parker grew up.

Briefly working in the corporate world after graduating from University of Vermont, Parker came back to White River Junction, where he managed his parents’ apartment buildings, which led him to form his own real estate agency, which evolved into an insurance agency.

Parker credits those small-town roots in White River Junction with giving him an equanimity that made it easy to work with people.

“I grew up around people,” he said. “When my folks owned the restaurant, we lived over it. We ate our meals in the restaurant. I met people from all walks of life and countries and it was really an opportunity to learn from people who had different cultures, different interests, different economic bearings.”

Walpole’s Ruggles & Hunt Tests Hanover With ‘Pop-Up’ Store

On the heels of news that Woodstock’s Farmhouse Pottery is opening a store in Hanover, now comes word that Walpole, N.H., gift emporium Ruggles & Hunt is testing the waters to open a store in the space once occupied by Game, Set, Mat on South Main Street.

Owner Vicki Gohl said she will open a “pop up” store later this week in the approximately 2,500-square foot storefront squeezed between Simon Pearce and the Dartmouth Co-op that will feature Ruggles & Hunt’s signature collection apparel, home furnishings, greetings cards, baby clothes, books, games, puzzles, artisanal soaps and lotions and ceramic housewares.

“I’m going to give it a four-month tryout to see if it’s a good fit with Hanover,” Gohl said last week as she was preparing the store’s opening. In December, she will decide whether to take a long-term lease in the space depending upon how sales go during the test phase.

Gohl said reports about the death of traditional retail stores are overstated and depends largely on what the store is selling and market to which it caters.

“If you’re buying something that is already known, like garden furniture, you can do that online,” she said. “But for clothing and wedding presents, people still want to feel that, pick them up in their hands.”

Gohl, a former researcher for documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, opened her first Ruggles & Hunt in Walpole in 2005 and then a second shop in Brattleboro in 2016.

After One Year, Lake Sunapee Business Chamber Head Leaves Position

The Lake Sunapee Region Chamber of Commerce announced last week that the organization’s executive director, Patty McGoldrick, “will leave her position” at the end of the month.

McGoldrick, former executive director of the New London Historical Society, was brought aboard 11 months ago. The chamber said in a news release that McGoldrick was tasked with improving the business group’s organization and finances and that she “successfully assessed needs, addressed inadequacies, and proposed plans and priorities for the chamber.” Those plans “will be implemented in the strategy of the chamber moving forward,” the chamber said.

“Now with a full roster of directors and crew of committed volunteers the decision was made to transition Patty from her role as executive director and return to staffing levels that are in alignment with our operating budget,” chamber president Sarah Christie said via email last week to the Valley News.

Christie said that McGoldrick did “an exceptional job for our organization. We were very lucky to have her and we have valued everything she has done to help reorganize the chamber.”

Nancy Barthol, member and visitor services manager who effectively had been McGoldrick’s deputy, will continue in her role, the chamber said.

News items of interest to the local business community are published in the Business & Money section of the Sunday Valley News. Submissions may be sent by email to: biznotes@vnews.com (high-resolution photographs may be attached in .jpg format). Items are edited for clarity and space.