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PETERBOROUGH

They’re taking the next step

Function hall, professional development center and dance studio launched

PETERBOROUGH — A clam shack and ice cream place. A restaurant and bar. A printing and mailing operation. A consignment store. These are some of the businesses 206 Concord St. has housed over the years. Now, the building is taking on yet another function as an educational and entertainment venue.

Rebecca’s Function Rooms, formerly Rebecca’s Consignment, is beginning to serve many interests, in addition to George Sterling’s print and mail business: conference hall, ballroom dance and fitness studio, music/dance hall and business center, with computer and professional development classes. And it’s taken on another identity, too, as Studio-9247.

“[It’s] something to do on a Friday or Saturday night,” Sterling said about the DJ dances they host. “But the real dream is to have this place become a learning and activity center. ... I’m actively looking for people who have a passion and want to teach about it.” Various classes are planned for the summer.

It’s a departure from Sterling’s previous business ventures. In a recent interview, Sterling reflected on 206 Concord St.’s evolution over the years.

The place started as a clam shack and ice cream place, but then there was a fire. The Old Straw Hat restaurant replaced the clam shack, but fire struck again. “It got bigger every time they had a fire. They added onto it,” Sterling said. By the mid-1970s, the Ridan restaurant and bar was born.

“It was the local place to go for food and drink. But it was a little rough at times,” he recalled. “They had a good 10-year run, and then we purchased it and turned it into a printing factory, printing and mailing.”

In 1981, Sterling started a mailing service in his garage on Summer Street. “I invested my whole life savings to start a mailing company after college,” he said. Within six months, Sterling business had outgrown the space, operating briefly in two other Peterborough locations, before Sterling and his wife, Loretta, risked everything to buy 206 Concord St.

The year was 1985, and the print business was going strong. At its height, Sterling Business employed 20 people and operated a printing and mailing operation on Concord Street. “We were doing a newsletter a day for businesses across New England,” he said, about 40 a month. “Then someone figured out how to get graphics in email,” he said, “and it literally stopped just like that.”

Rebecca’s Consignment came next. “That came about after the implosion of printing business,” Sterling said. From 2004 to summer of 2014, the consignment store operated alongside a much-reduced Sterling Business, still in operation today.

“When we first started, there were no consignment stores for 15 miles,” he said, but then the recession hit in 2008. “It put a lot of people out of work. ... So now [consignment stores] are everywhere, so it’s really competitive.”

Sterling said he enjoyed learning about all kinds of “stuff,” including antiques and collectibles, and he especially enjoyed the daily comings and goings of people who shopped at the store. He didn’t know what direction he would go next. “But I knew we were done,” he said, referring to the consignment business.

He and Lorette have been taking ballroom dance lessons for years, and putting the dance floor in helped move things along, as far as the direction of their next venture. “I tried to rent it,” Sterling said of the building. “That was unsuccessful. We researched business incubators.” But the grant money for incubators and business development has dried up, he noted. It’s something that has Sterling concerned for the area and the state. “We’re aging and industry is moving away. We’ve got to bring it back.”

Sterling sees a need for a professional development and activity center, and hopes his business will help fill the void. “I’m sure there’s a market for it right now. So we’re back to, if we want economic development, we have to do it ourself.”

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