Convenience Chain Jake’s Takes Over Operation of Canaan Market Papa Z’s

  • Suzan Ignacio laughs with Tom Keefe both of Canaan, N.H., while working at Papa Z's in Canaan on Dec. 3, 2017. Ignacio has been working at the store for over four years, Keefe for a month now. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • David Zani, left, of Papa Z's in Canaan, N.H. laughs with customer John Coffey, of Wilmot, N.H., on Dec. 3, 2017. Zani is leasing the store to Jake's Market & Deli. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, December 04, 2017

Canaan — Sitting in his office at Papa Z’s on Sunday, founder David Zani clicked through a folder containing old photos of the general store.

Each documented the building’s months-long construction about a decade ago, beginning with the day Zani started building the walls through to the installation of the gas tanks at the Route 118 property just off of Route 4.

Although Zani, 67, is proud of the business that the store has grown into since, he also expressed surprise to have been at the helm for so long.

“My intention was never to run this store,” said Zani, a builder by trade, on Sunday morning.

Zani recently began leasing the business to Jake’s Market and Deli, the Lebanon-based convenience chain that currently boasts eight locations in the Upper Valley.

The two entities also have signed a purchase and sale agreement for Jake’s to fully own the property and Papa Z’s trade name within a year, Zani said.

The move is one Zani had planned for years ago. He owns a construction company, and initially thought of Papa Z’s as a place to help meet the demand for gas pumps in Canaan, particularly from drivers with large, diesel vehicles. When construction was complete, Zani said, he tried to find a gas station chain that would lease the pumps.

“They all said we wouldn’t make it, that I was on the wrong side of town and it wouldn’t do enough business,” Zani said with a laugh. “Oh boy, they were wrong.”

Instead, Zani learned to split his time between his construction business and general store, with each growing over the years. The store saw an expansion three years ago, which was intended to boost grocery offerings. Meanwhile, the list of properties Zani owns in Canaan grew to more than 20, according to accessing records.

“I was doing both jobs,” he said. “It was an education, but you can’t be scared.”

Today, Papa Z’s is much more than gas pumps. It also sells produce and fresh meats and boasts a deli that serves hot meals throughout the day.

That means people are able to do much of their food shopping in town rather than driving to grocery stores in Plymouth and Lebanon, Zani said.

“Our prices are really aggressive here because I care about people,” he said. “It’s my hometown and I want it to stay right.”

The sale to Jake’s should preserve much of the Papa Z’s that people have come to know, Zani said, adding he screened several potential buyers in the last year.

Employees have been asked to stay on and the deli will continue to use Papa Z’s recipes, he said.

The business is selling for an undisclosed price; assessing records value the Papa Z’s property at $584,600.

The sale marks the second Jake’s acquisition in the Mascoma Valley this year. The company purchased the former Enfield Hardware and Supply property this summer with the hopes of building a 7,800-square-foot store at the corner of Route 4 and Maple Street. That project gained approval from the Enfield Planning Board in July and construction is scheduled for spring.

Messages left for Ed Kerrigan, Jake’s owner, were not returned last week.

Those who work at and patronize Papa Z’s said they hope Jake’s will continue Papa Z’s small town appeal.

Employees frequently assist longtime customers, helping senior citizens shop and get groceries to their cars, said Suzan Ignacio, who has worked at the store for four years.

“That’s what people should do,” she said. “People used to do that back in the olden days.”

Ignacio said Papa Z’s location is also convenient for those who either don’t wish to or are unable to drive to neighboring communities for groceries.

“I would rather just buy (groceries) here for a few more cents more or less than drive to West Lebanon,” she said. “I hate driving to West Lebanon.”

That’s partially why Walter Guerin, of Enfield, stops by daily.

“The people are friendly and they always give you what you want to eat,” he said on Sunday. “There’s no hassle about it.”

Canaan resident Sharon Mansur said she also appreciates Papa Z’s atmosphere as “a place to meet your neighbors, sit down and enjoy yourself.”

“It’s always been that way,” she said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.