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New start at former ‘eyesore’

  • Jacqueline Goohs has opened the Magic Flute Child store in a former gas station at the intersection of Routes 101 and 202.
  • Jacqueline Goohs has opened the Magic Flute Child store in a former gas station at the intersection of Routes 101 and 202.
  • Jacqueline Goohs has opened the Magic Flute Child store in a former gas station at the intersection of Routes 101 and 202.

PETERBOROUGH — After a year spent remodeling a vacant former gas station on the corner of Routes 101 and 202 that had been an eyesore for years, Jacqueline Goohs, owner of Magic Flute Child, opened her toy store at the busy intersection last week.

For Goohs, the new store is the realization of a dream she’s been working on for years.

“Since the day I opened in the [Monadnock Community] plaza, I had always been researching the corner store,” Goohs said in a phone interview last week. “It was always my intention to be in the corner store. Peterborough is where I want to be. Once I got my own building, that’s it. I’m home.”

The project signals a new beginning at a site that has been an irritant to Peterborough residents for years.

“The addition of a new store at the gateway corner is a great thing,” Town Administrator Pam Brenner said last week. “It shows we’re a vibrant community.”

Brenner said the gas station had been vacant for at least 10 years, and during that time residents were regularly asking what the town could do about the building, which was in poor shape and had been surrounded by a chain link fence.

“It’s always been a private property and earlier projects to use it didn’t go anywhere,” Brenner said. “I think this is the third iteration that’s come forward. To give Jacqueline credit, she’s made it come to fruition.”

But the excitement of the opening is somewhat clouded by the fact that Goohs filed voluntary bankruptcy papers for her company, The Magic Flute LLC., on Nov. 15, just a few days prior to opening at the new location.

The business had been in the Monadnock Community Plaza, but Goohs left the plaza in May after what she describes as a disagreement with the landlord that led her to stop paying rent. She said she was evicted, but left on amicable terms with the plaza’s owner at the time, Ashford Management Group Inc., of Utica, N.Y. She also closed a second Magic Flute store in Merrimack and put her merchandise in storage at a location in Jaffrey.

“When we left, we didn’t have any income,” Goohs said. “Connecticut River Bank holds the loan on our business. I immediately told them what had occurred. They said they were going to work with us.”

But Goohs said the bank indicated that it would seize the stored merchandise and had changed the locks on the storage unit, leaving her no choice but to file for bankruptcy.

“It was the only way to prevent them from taking the merchandise,” Goohs said. “It was recommended to me by my attorney.”

Bob Edwards, a vice president of Connecticut River Bank who works from the bank’s Peterborough office, disputes Goohs’ account.

“The bank did not change any locks,” Edwards said last week. “Other than saying that, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on a customer that we are doing business with.”

According to a voluntary petition for bankruptcy filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of New Hampshire, Ashford Management Group is one of the largest creditors holding an unsecured claim against The Magic Flute, LLC., in the amount of $30,000.

An Ashford Management Group representative refused to comment on the bankruptcy filing last week, saying only that Ashford no longer owns the Monadnock Community Plaza.

The creditor with the largest claim, according to the filing, is Cathy Joly of Temple, whom Goohs said is an investor in the business. The filing states that Joly is owed $132,500. Joly has not returned calls from the Ledger-Transcript seeking comment on the filing.

Goohs’ attorney, Steven Notinger of the Concord firm Cleveland, Waters and Bass, P.A., said the bankruptcy filing was a necessary step in order for Goohs to open at the new location.

“She’d been closed for a while and the bank wanted to be paid,” Notinger said on Monday. “ We needed to file to allow her to operate. The next step will be to file a plan of reorganization. We intend to do that quickly, because we want to present a plan to the court and the creditors. We’re not looking to stay in bankruptcy.”

Goohs has spent much of the past year renovating the former gas station. She said she is leasing the building from the Rite Aid Corporation, with about half of her rent payments going toward eventual purchase of the property.

Goohs did a lot of the work on the building herself and with the help of her mother, Ana Aquilera, and her sons, Allan and Trevor. “They have been my driving force,” she said.

She said customers have been glad to see her back in business.

“It’s been a struggle, but I call this the beginning,” she said. “We are open, never to be closed again.”

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