Hubert’s to Close Original Location in Newport

  • Diane Traegde, left, and Fred Weber, both of Claremont, N.H., walk in to Hubert's Department Store to shop during the closing sale in Newport on Feb. 1, 2018. Traegde said she shops at Hubert's because of the quality of the clothing which is hard to find stores in the Newport area. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Cori Stackpole, of Newport, N.H., looks at a pair of pants during the closing sale at Hubert's Department Store in Newport on Feb. 1, 2018. Stackpole has been coming to the store since she was a teenager and said it will be sad to see the store go because there is not much in town. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Thursday, February 01, 2018

Newport — The Hubert’s Family Outfitters store in Newport will close, company officials said this week, a move precipitated by the retirement of longtime company principals Guenter Hubert and his wife, Kathy Hubert, and changes in customers’ buying habits.

The announcement is the latest in a raft of family-owned Upper Valley stores and businesses that have closed in recent months as their owners reach retirement age and more consumers shift to buying online.

Hubert’s President Tom Hubert said the Newport store, which was the first to open in 1972 in what became a seven-store chain at its peak, will close “at the end of March or early April,” depending on how long it takes to sell out the store’s remaining stock.

The change in the region’s economy over the years greatly affected Hubert’s business and that of other small stores that used to dot Newport’s Main Street but have mostly vanished, Hubert said.

He explained that the disappearance of factory and mill jobs, whose workers supported downtown businesses, hurt sales, combined with changing consumer shopping habits for apparel and shoes, which have pivoted to online retailers.

Hubert said the Newport store has been “subsidized” by the profits of the other Hubert’s stores and the company could no longer sustain the losses.

“From a historical and emotional standpoint, it was a difficult decision to make,” Hubert said about the decision to close the oldest store in the chain. “My parents sweated and toiled in the building. We grew up as kids there. But from a business perspective, just based on the math, it became a necessary decision.”

Hubert’s, which earlier closed stores in Woodsville, N.H., and Goffstown, N.H., joins other small Upper Valley retailers such as Hirsch’s and Shoetorium in Lebanon, Rare Essentials and Essentials for Men, Clay’s and Rosey Jekes, all in Hanover, Scotland by the Yard in Quechee and Hill’s 5 & 10 in Bradford that all have closed in recent years. Other longtime family-owned businesses to close in recent months include Bridgman’s Furniture in Lebanon, Kibby Equipment in White River Junction and Belmains in Randolph.

When Hubert’s Newport store was opened in 1972 by Hubert’s parents, Thomas and Hannelore Hubert, along with their son, Guenter, workers would stream out of the local woolen mills and shoe factories to fill the streets and shop on Thursday and Friday nights. Guenter, who is Tom Hubert’s older brother, and his wife, Kathy, will be celebrating their retirement Feb. 23 at the Newport store.

“There was all this industry and jobs that supported downtown. Consumers could find anything they needed in Newport,” Hubert said. “When I was growing up, downtown Newport was a bustling shopping destination.”

“But the times changed,” he added. “And because of that people’s shopping habits changed. Our family and most of our friends don’t do their primary shopping in Newport anymore. Instead, they travel to Lebanon or Claremont or even Concord.”

Moreover, the Newport store is located at the base of the Lebanon-New London-Claremont triangle, where Hubert’s has other stores and therefore has a “limited market area,” the company said. The Newport store was the smallest in terms of apparel selection of the company’s five stores.

Hubert said the remaining four stores in Lebanon, Claremont, New London and Peterborough, N.H., are doing well and will remain open. He said the priority is to place the Newport store’s three full-time employees and three part-time employees in positions at the company’s corporate offices or warehouse in Newport.

He noted that last year’s takeover by Maine’s Bar Harbor Bank & Trust of Lake Sunapee Bank, which had its headquarters on Main Street in Newport, led to a big loss in employees at the location and a falloff in downtown business.

“Those were customers who might wander down at lunch time.” Hubert said. The loss of those jobs “will continue to hurt Newport for some time.”

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.