Some positive,
and very local, signs of recovery

Last modified: Wednesday, December 04, 2013
It’s anecdotal, for sure, but there does seem to be quite a bit more optimism these days regarding the local economy. You could say consumer confidence is higher, but there’s also a lot of investment going on, especially in and around Peterborough.

Investors and small retailers alike will tell you that the past four-plus years have proven difficult, even in this part of the state that’s built on the backs of mom-and-pop shops. And truth be told, even in the last year we’ve seen large businesses scale back their local presence, or leave town altogether. Those moves have significant cut down the number of local jobs. But there has also been a fair amount of locally based investment, and from our perspective, that’s a great sign. And hopefully it’s an indicator that the local economy is bouncing back, and that a surge in new employment will follow.

The power of plaid: By all accounts, towns that participated in Plaid Friday — the grassroots effort established as a local option to the Black Friday madness — saw a noticeable boost in the number of local shoppers. The marketing effort has been several years in the making, and it’s gaining traction. More than anything, it speaks to the power of retailers working together to make their downtowns a shopping experience. The effort has been mostly confined to businesses in Peterborough and Jaffrey, but it’s a concept merchants in other downtowns may want to adopt. Shelley Osborne, an employee at Joseph’s Coat in Peterborough, perhaps said it best when she said events like Plaid Friday help fuel a “growing, gradual awareness” of shopping local.

Cider Monday: This event, which came on the heels of the Plaid Friday effort, was started by Peterborough’s Toadstool Bookshop owner Willard Williams. Like Plaid Friday, Cider Monday was a concept created to lure shoppers from another big-box staple — this one being Cyber Monday. Some local merchants, such as Steele’s, served up cups of cider to local shoppers. “We’re trying to encourage people to go out to a real store, instead of shopping online,” Williams explained.

Magic Flute’s new start: Kudos to Jacqueline Goohs for having the dedication and the resolve to renovate what has long been termed a “Peterborough’s eyesore.” Recently, the dilapidated former gas station at the intersection of routes 101 and 202 stood vacant as an unwanted sentinel to the gateway of downtown. In fact, a new sign pointing visitors to “Historic Downtown Peterborough” sat just an intersection away. As we reported in Tuesday’s paper, Goohs filed for bankruptcy in connection with her previous site. But let’s not lose sight that this was a local business owner who has helped give the town a much-needed facelift on a private, but highly visible property.

The plazas: Both the Monadnock Community Plaza and the Peterborough Plaza have recently been purchased, which can only mean that investors from outside the region see the routes 101 and 202 corridors as ripe for new business. Monadnock Community Plaza, which recently sold to a Nashua-based firm, has gone on the record saying they will make upgrades to the current infrastructure. They’ve also been actively advertising for new tenants. Filling some of the vacant storefronts in both plazas is a real possibility.

From Depot Square to Jaffrey: It wasn’t long ago that some of us crammed into the small space next to the movie theater to check out the new business started by Jim and Susan Therriault. New England Everyday Goods became popular enough to move out of the incubator-sized space and into a much larger location in the heart of Depot Square. Now, it looks like the business has outgrown that space as well, and the couple is now working to purchase the Coll’s Farm store building, where they will have more room for their collection of regionally made merchandise. And it could also help revitalize the site of the former grocery store, which closed in June. They plan to make some of that new space available for a farm stand, and there may also be room for a deli or a cafe. That combination, together with one of the region’s best views, could be a real lure for locals and tourists alike. And the move for New England Everyday Goods also speaks to the power of the small space in Peterborough, which has helped several businesses get off the ground.

36 Grove: The biggest downtown Peterborough project in recent years is close to completion, and so far has brought in new tenant Sarah’s Hat Boxes, which is planning a 3,000-square-foot showroom as an expansion of its Hancock facility. The project, which also includes other retail space and apartments, represents a significant mixed use investment in Peterborough.

Retirement: It’s no secret that the retirement population in the region is expected to rise considerably within the next decade. And two of Peterborough’s largest senior living centers have been preparing for the growth. RiverMead, which is already a major taxpayer in Peterborough, recently opened the Village expansion, and Scott Farrar is working toward its own major expansion. The expansion of those communities certainly helps the tax base, but they also represent investments that will bring in more jobs and more opportunities for local businesses.