Retail Shop in Bradford Set to Close

Valley News Business Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2018

Bradford, Vt. —After 15 years in business, North of the Falls will be closing the first weekend of October, the latest Upper Valley retail shop to succumb to the pressure of online competition.

North of the Falls, located in a mid-1800s wooden storefront on Bradford’s Main Street, is owned by Nikki and Richard Darling and Richard’s son, Mick Darling, and his wife, Becca, who bought the store in 2005 from founder Mark Johnson (Johnson owns the adjacent Bliss Village Store & Deli).

Nikki Darling said a variety of factors have coincided to close the store, including personal health issues, but significantly, the effect that Amazon and eBay have had on siphoning off their business.

She also said that business has been hurt by the loss of parking space in front of the store after the town redid the sidewalks several years ago.

Additionally, Mick’s brother, Andrew Darling, who owns the building in which the store is located, has put the building up for sale because he cannot easily manage it while he attends medical school at the University of Vermont, Nikki Darling said.

Offering an eclectic selection of art, pottery, jewelry, toys, apparel and food, North of the Falls emphasized products made by local and Twin State artisans, although Nikki Darling said that in recent years more and more of their suppliers have been shifting the manufacture of products overseas.

“It’s just a bunch of reasons that have come together,” she said. “Online has changed a lot the way people are buying,” she said, noting that artisans and craftsman now routinely sell their work on eBay, bypassing the need for merchants.

These factors make it harder to entice the next generation to take over the business. “It’s hard for small family stores to pass on their business,” she said.

In recent years a slew of longtime retail businesses in the Upper Valley have closed as technology and changing buying habits have upended bricks-and-mortar stores.

Darling said she and her family, even though they had lacked retail experience at the time — Nikki is a former paraeducator in Bradford and Richard is a retired engineer with CRREL — initially bought the store because their families have deep ties to Bradford and wanted to continue that tradition.

“It was giving back to the community that meant a lot to our fathers,” she said.

Closed Stella’s Restaurant Building In Lyme Up for Sale

The owners of Stella’s Italian Kitchen & Market in Lyme, which earlier this summer announced the restaurant was temporarily closing as they struggled with staffing and sought to reorganize the business, have now put the business and building up for sale.

Bob and Denby Coyle, a New Jersey couple who moved to the Upper Valley in 1991 and operated the former Bagel Basement eateries in Hanover and Lebanon, opened the family-style bistro known for skillfully prepared dinners and take-out, in 2008. Over the years, some of the Upper Valley’s most celebrated chefs have worked at Stella’s, including Martin Murphy, the owner-chef of Ariana’s, and Armen Poghossian, formerly the chef at the Lyme Inn.

Stella’s owners have listed the business and property for sale with Lyme commercial real estate agent Woodward Associates. Asking price: $1.25 million.

That’s not as steep an asking price as it might first appear. The 21,260-square foot building on a nearly 1-acre plot facing the Lyme Green includes, in addition to a fully equipped commercial kitchen, restaurant and bar, income-generating tenants such as a Ledyard Bank branch, the U.S. Post Office and Ace Hardware in addition to multiple offices on the second floor and a third-floor apartment.

The Coyles bought the building, formerly the location of Nichols Hardware, in 2007 for $500,000, according to town assessment records. The property’s 2016 assessed value was $1.22 million, including $298,600 for the land and $923,200 for improvements — the Coyles undertook a major redesign and renovation of building after they bought the it.

Robert Coyle did not return messages seeking comment.

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.