Etna General Store Up for Sale

  • Kim Dube starts to cry after talking to a customer whom she just helped the Etna General Store, in Etna, N.H. on Nov.9,2018. Her family is selling the store and she will miss the customers, "I'm going to be bawling for two weeks," she said.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kristin Greene, of Haverhill, N.H., begins her work day before sunrise at the Etna General Store in Etna, N.H., on Friday, Nov.9,2018. She arrives early to make breakfast sandwiches and coffee. She is the daughter of store owners Kim and Victor Dube, also of Haverhill, N.H.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Etna General Store employee Kristin Greene, of Haverhill, N.H., gets a hug from Pastor Roger Wotton, of Grafton, N.H., in the Etna General Store in Etna, N.H., on Friday, Nov.9,2018. Wotton baptized her three children; following the death of his son four years ago she started selling a cookie named in his son's honor.(Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, November 09, 2018

Etna — Eric Baughman remembers helping to stock shelves at Etna General Store as a young boy in the 1970s. A native of Etna, Baughman said he “may have gotten a couple bucks” from the store’s owners at the time for his assistance, but mostly he was motivated to help for his own amusement, and to be part of the social lifeblood of the village.

“To me, this store is about community, and history,” said Baughman, who walked to the store on Friday from his home. “I grew up here, and when you grow up here, you grow up coming to this store.”

That tradition could be in jeopardy. After 15 years running the store with their daughter and other family members, store owners Victor and Kimberly Dube are leaving to run Aldrich General Store in North Haverhill, much closer to their Haverhill Corner home.

The Etna General Store — which has operated in the same Etna Road location since 1931, save for a brief closing due to a gas pump leak in the late 1970s, Victor Dube says — has been for sale for about a month. It hasn’t yet drawn any serious interest, and if no buyer is found by Nov. 30, the store could close indefinitely.

“It’s a burden on my heart,” Victor Dube said. “I’m trying to find someone to take a stab at it. I just can’t imagine this community without this store.”

Dube’s asking price for the store is $50,000 — $75,000 less than what he paid for it in 2003, he said. That includes about $30,000 in inventory, including deli assets, kitchen supplies, prepared food warmers and a new air conditioner, according to a flyer posted on the bulletin board outside the store.

Only the business itself, not the building, is for sale. A buyer would have to enter into a lease agreement with building owner Rick Dickinson, who said he is open to a lease-to-own agreement.

Aside from the flyer, a small sign facing the road and a couple of classified ads, the Dubes have alerted the public by way of the same method that has helped build its considerable clientele over the years: word of mouth.

That’s led to a lot of friendly conversations, mostly with regular customers who would lament losing it, but not much in the way of potential takers.

“Most of the people who’ve shown interest are mainly just curious about it,” Dube said. “A lot of people talk ‘local first,’ but as of right now, no one is stepping up to keep it going.”

Built in the early 1900s, the white clapboard building a mile south of Hanover Center Road that houses Etna General Store has been expanded several times, yet maintains plenty of rustic charm. “It feels like you’re visiting a neighbor,” said Lloyd Gabourel, general manager of nearby Trumbull House Bed & Breakfast. “That’s how the family treats you.”

Still, the store’s sale may have held more appeal if recent plans to demolish the building and replace it with a more modern structure had succeeded. Dickinson’s plans to replace the existing structure with a three-story building with a more open concept were submitted to the town of Hanover for approval in spring 2017, but he withdrew them earlier this year due to unforeseen mounting expenses, such as the need for drainage infrastructure.

“It just got to be too much,” said Dickinson, 69, who also owns the Hanover-based plumbing and heating company Dickinson and Son Inc. “There were things the state thought that I should pay for that I thought was their responsibility, and it just got too complicated.”

Maintaining the store’s traditional layout hasn’t affected business much. It did $506,000 in sales last year, according to Dube, and a steady stream of customers came in during lunch hour on Friday. Baked goods, lunch specials, soups and novelties like bacon cheddar hot dogs were the order of the day.

“This place is a staple, absolutely,” said James McGrath, a 30-year Etna resident. McGrath was in the small front parking lot chatting with Burke Patterson, of Enfield, who’d just ordered the chicken cordon bleu special. “Usually when I’m working in Hanover or Lebanon, I come out here for lunch,” said Patterson, who works for a pest control company. “It’s a 3- or 4-mile drive, but I just like the mom-and-pop feel. And it’s much better food than your typical gas station in town.”

For those who live or do business in Etna, it’s the only option for basic goods without a lengthier time commitment. Gabourel, the bed-and-breakfast manager, was able to shoot to the store and back for eggs in just a few minutes, despite the inn’s relatively off-the-beaten-path location.

“It’s very convenient for everyone in Etna,” he said. “For a little town, it’s great to have so that there’s no need to go to West Lebanon or anywhere else. But the people are the best part.”

Victor and Kimberly Dube are helped most days by their daughter, Kristen Greene; son-in-law, Sean Greene; and several grandchildren. Their amiability and attention to the needs of customers will be missed by patrons, even if the store remains open under new ownership.

“They’re so friendly; I’m really going to miss them,” said Etna resident Jennifer Riccio, who stopped in for lunch. “I’ll be really sad if the store closes. It would be a very noticeable absence.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.