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Etna Store Looks to Expand

  • Etna General Store owner Victor Dube laughs while serving Brent Williams, of Newbury, Vt., left, at the store in Etna, N.H., Monday, May 15, 2017. Dube has run the store for 14 years, and is unsure of the future of the store after a potential nine-month closure as a new building is built on the site. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Raymond and Marilyn Dickinson, owners of the 1900 building that houses the Etna General Store, are seeking approval from the Hanover Planning Board to tear down the structurally failing building and replace it with a building designed by local architect Jay Barrett. Lunchtime customers come and go at the store in Etna, N.H., Monday, May 15, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Derek Dube prices lunch items in a cooler at the Etna General Store as his co-worker Aaron Stocking walks to the deli counter in Etna, N.H., Monday, May 15, 2017. Dube's father, Victor Dube, owns and operates the store and hopes to re-open in the new building if it is demolished and replaced by property owners Raymond and Marilyn Dickinson. (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 Staff Writer
Published: 5/16/2017 12:22:51 AM
Modified: 5/16/2017 10:19:44 AM

Etna — When Victor Dube started running the Etna General Store about 14 years ago, he looked forward to operating a true family-owned business.

Dube, who was working as a Pepperidge Farm vendor at the time, envisioned the type of neighborhood general store that drew in the same familiar faces day after day, one where he could work alongside his family.

Dube largely got what he was looking for, he said on Monday. But there’s still one thing he’d like to see changed: the building, which includes an upstairs apartment in addition to the store.

“For a store setup, it’s kind of funky because it’s got too many walls. It’s not open ended,” Dube said while pointing out three distinct sections of the store, created over 100 years of expansion.

“With a new store, we could set it up the way a store’s supposed to be,” he said.

Dube could soon be getting his wish. The building’s longtime owners, Raymond and Marilyn Dickinson, submitted plans to the Hanover Planning Board earlier this year that call for the demolition of the Etna General Store. A new three-story building would be constructed in its place.

Although the new building would match its predecessor’s footprint, design plans submitted to the town propose a fresh take on Etna village’s history.

The interior’s first floor still would house a store, but with more of an open-concept design, and on the second floor, two new studio apartments would be accessible from a spiral staircase.

Passers-by also would see a significant exterior change. Instead of worn white paint and a green metal roof, the new store is designed to match the historic mills and businesses that shaped Etna. Clapboard siding and traditional windows would work their way up the building to a cupola inspired by one found on a historic mill in Hillsborough, N.H.

“The idea was to play upon the architecture of old mills,” said Jay Barrett, a White River Junction-based architect working on the project.

Barrett said he was contacted about a year ago by Raymond Dickinson, who also owns the nearby Etna Post Office building, about replacing the general store.

“It is getting pretty rough, pretty old, and structurally, it’s in need of a lot of repair,” Barrett said.

Since Etna was once home to Hanover’s oldest mill buildings, Barrett said, they inspired much of his design, as did the previous general store building, which burned down in 1921.

The project was presented to the Planning Board for a preliminary review in February. Since then, the board has been meeting monthly to discuss the project, and is set to meet tonight to continue those talks.

“The Hanover Planning Board has really, really enthusiastically embraced the overall project,” Barrett said. “The Planning Board really gets it and they’ve just been wonderful.”

Meeting minutes show board members generally approve of the project, but proceedings have slowed over questions surrounding parking, deliveries to the future store and stormwater runoff.

Plans call for delivery trucks to park across the street and walk across Etna Road. During the meetings, neighbors questioned whether that would be best for traffic.

Designs also have stormwater draining from the street into nearby Mink Brook, according to the minutes. While engineers for the project have said they could filter it, they’ve also questioned whether the Dickinsons should be responsible for filtering water that comes off a state-owned road.

Parking also has become a large issue for the project, Barrett said.

Currently, customers park in front of the store and are forced to back up directly into the street. While some parking spots would remain in front of the store, employee parking would be available across Mink Brook near the post office building.

Barrett said Hanover’s planning staff have “bogged down” the project by pushing for an old plan that could require construction of a footbridge over the brook to connect the larger parking area with the store, a plan he called a “deal killer.”

But Hanover Planning Director Robert Houseman said he’s trying to keep board members aware of good engineering practices. A building designed with cars backing up into passing traffic doesn’t comply with current best practices, he said on Monday.

“Having said that, that’s what occurs there every day,” he said “My process as a planner is, ‘Is there a way to look at this site holistically and try to address all of the issues?’ ”

Once the Planning Board’s preliminary review is complete, Houseman said, the project would need to obtain a variance and several special exceptions before the Zoning Board. It also would need to come back before the Planning Board for a final review before construction could begin, he said.

Barrett has estimated construction could take eight months and cost around $750,000, even with Dickinson providing much of the labor.

Parking concerns aside, neighbors overall are in favor of a new building, said Matthew Marshall, who lives across the street.

“We’re excited about the new and improved store that’s going in. It’s a big part of the community here,” Marshall said. “It’s really where I meet a lot of people. It’s a gathering spot as much as anything else.”

As the proposal makes its way through town review, Dube, the store’s owner, said business will continue as usual.

He’s also hopeful that if the project is approved, the Etna General Store will make a return to the site once construction is finished. Dube is still negotiating rent for the new building, which would determine whether he continues doing business there.

“It’s not hustle and bustle like the world. You come in here to see us, we talk and have conversations,” Dube said of the store. “It’s not all about making money because there’s not enough in it.”

Dickinson could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The Hanover Planning Board will continue its preliminary review of the Etna General Store project at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Hanover town offices on Main Street.

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




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