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Hanover Store Folk to Close

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    Folk owner Ted Degener looks on as Monika Dhamrait, of Norwich, tries on rings at the store in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, April 11, 2018. In the early 1970s Degener began to buy and sell crafts collected from small producers he met in his travels and that business grew into Folk, his Allen Street store. "It was a way to educate people about the world and celebrate creativity," he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News —James M. Patterson

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    Kris Sorrell, of Chico, Calif., browses items for sale at Folk in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Folk owner Ted Degener has announced that he plans to close the store after for 45 years in business, partly because competition with online retailers has made it difficult to break even, he said. "I'm getting to a certain age when I'd like to simplify my life," he added. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Figurines of saints, deities, animals and skeletons from Peru, India and Africa line the shelves of Folk, the eclectic clothing and jewelry store run by Ted Degener on Allen Street in Hanover for 45 years, Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Degener announced Tuesday that he plans to close the store. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Christine Hawkins, of Claremont, browses a rack of clothing on sale outside Folk in Hanover, N.H., Wednesday, April 11, 2018. Folk owner Ted Degener has announced that he plans to close the store. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/12/2018 12:21:51 AM
Modified: 4/12/2018 12:42:09 PM

Hanover — Folk, a funky, eclectic purveyor of international artisan goods and clothing, is closing later this spring or summer after nearly 45 years in business on Allen Street, its owner announced this week.

“It was a good run,” Ted Degener, of Cornish, said in a Facebook announcement on Tuesday. “I enjoyed the travel, the authenticity of the goods, the community aspect, the diversity of the customers, and especially the serendipity of a day at the store.”

In an interview on Wednesday, Degener cited his age — he turns 70 in June — and growing competition from online retail as factors in his decision to close up shop. This moment, he said, is “a perfect storm of it being harder and harder, and I don’t see myself doing it much longer.”

His introduction to the folk art scene came as a young man in the 1970s, when he visited Oaxaca, Mexico, on a break from the University of Pennsylvania.

With his mother, an art critic for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he toured a valley dotted with little towns, each one filled with artisans’ homes.

“I just fell for it,” said Degener, an accomplished art photographer who took some of his early pictures in the Mexican province.

Spurred by a desire for authenticity and an impulse to travel — a participant in the anti-Vietnam War movement, he longed to experience other lands and cultures — Degener began a series of southern excursions.

In Mexican and Guatemalan hill towns, and in South America, he met artisans and brought back pottery, fabric and jewelry to the United States, where at first he sold his goods at various arts fairs.

Later in the ’70s, a visit to a Penn friend at Dartmouth Medical School (now known as the Geisel School of Medicine) brought him to Hanover.

Degener opened up shop across the street from his current location and stayed there for at least 25 years, leaving now and then for merchandise hunting and photography missions to Central America and, often, New York City.

He assembled an informal network of suppliers, stopping in the Garment District in Midtown Manhattan to visit wholesalers from India, and then hiking uptown to visit African vendors dealing out of apartments in Harlem.

Over the years, his supply chain migrated more to “fair trade” companies that do some of that merchandise hunting themselves. And more recently, customers have begun to move online, a widespread shift that has made itself felt in Degener’s shop off the main drag in small-town Hanover.

Tracy Hutchins, executive director of the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, said several businesses had mentioned feeling pressure from online retail — a nationwide trend, she noted.

“Downtowns across the country are seeing a shift toward less retail and more service businesses or restaurants,” she said.

Responding to a question about possible pressure from rising rents, Hutchins added, “And yes, retail rents in Hanover are higher than in surrounding communities, which does increase the pressure to overcome overhead costs for many businesses located here.”

“We are fortunate to have a vibrant daytime population with students and employees that work downtown, but there are certainly challenges for retailers,” Hutchins said.

Despite the wider trends, however, Degener said he’d always had a good relationship with his landlord on Allen Street.

Carole Petrillo, a longtime customer from Thetford Center, lamented the pending closing and said she would have to travel long distances to find international artisan goods of Folk’s caliber — likely as far afield as Northampton, Mass.

“It was my home away from home,” said Petrillo, who made a tradition of buying her godchild a Christmas ornament from Folk every year. “It was probably the one place in Hanover that had more of an international flair to it. I just love the merchandise.”

“I think the community is going to miss it a lot,” she said.

There is no set timeline for the closing, Degener said, but it likely will happen within several months. A few people have expressed interest in taking over the store, but so far nothing concrete has transpired.

With the store soon off his hands, he plans to spend more time on his photography, which focuses on “outsider art” — art from people without formal training or connections to the artistic establishment.

Degener said his appreciation for outsider art and international craftsmanship was born, in part, of a love of authenticity. Pressed further on his reasons, he shrugged.

“It’s handmade, and it’s got — ” He paused. “Soul. You know?”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Correction

Carole Petrillo lives in Thetford Center. An ea  rlier version of this story incorrectly identified where she lives.




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