Let the Black Friday shopping begin!

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Jayson Twombly and Melissa McCarthy unpacking and getting The Studio in Laconia ready for Black Friday shoppers on Wednesday afternoon.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Locally owned businesses focus on customer service for survival

LACONIA — In this age of big box stores and internet sales, many small, locally owned businesses have found themselves unable to compete or adapt in order to survive. Those that are successful have found a way to offer something unique — even something as traditional as good customer service.
“I don’t try to be a Lowe’s,” said Pamela Langlitz, who, with her husband, Mark, owns Trustworthy Hardware at 1084 Union Ave. “I tell my people we sell service. They can’t get that on the internet. They can’t see how to put it together or ask to see how it works.”
“Hands down, it’s customer service, every day for every hour,” said Bethany Stockman who, with her brother, Brett Varnum, own the Laconia Pet Center at 1343 Union Ave. “You have to be listening to your customer, offering correct and consistent information.”
Both Trustworthy Hardware and Laconia Pet Center are second-generation family businesses with four decades in the community. The Studio, at 598 Main St., is only 5 years old, but it has found its niche in offering unique gifts.
“Almost everything we have is stuff no one else carries,” said Melissa McCarthy, who owns the business with Jayson Twombly. “We have fun gifts, and really nice gifts. It depends on what you’re looking for.”
Among the interesting items The Studio carries are American-made jewelry featuring a front magnetic clasp for those with mobility problems. Blue Q products, with snarky or sweet messages, are popular items, along with stocking stuffers such as Flying Wish Paper and car fresheners from Natural Life.
“We have a lot of toys made of wood, which is a nice alternative to fidgets,” McCarthy said. Space coasters and gifts for babies and youths also are on The Studio shelves.
“Business has been wonderful,” McCarthy said. “We’re looking forward to Small Business Saturday, and, personally, we’re getting ready to celebrate our 598th day at 598 Main St.”
Stockman said her parents, Ted and Jennifer Varnum, opened Laconia Pet Center 43 years ago and now she and her brother operate the store.
“We’ve been here over 40 years, and we would like to be here for another 40 years, and into a third generation,” Stockman said. “There are not a lot of generational businesses left.”
She said the store carries the same products as the large chain companies, but excels with product knowledge.
“We have a multitude of things that are available here in our local store, so you don’t have to go to the internet,” she said. “Chain stores don’t have the staff to talk to customers who need a little bit of education on what a product does.”
She said the latest trend is people looking to feed their pets healthy meals and dietary supplements.
“If a family is eating healthier, they want to do the same for their pets,” Stockman said. Laconia Pet Center carries vitamins, goat’s milk, and even CBD (cannabinoid) oil for dogs.
Collars that include health monitors have been introduced to the market, but Stockman sees no interest in such expensive items. Instead, video monitoring systems that allow people to monitor what their pet is doing have become very popular.
Just this week, Laconia Pet Center opened a do-it-yourself dog wash, supplying shampoo, towels, tub, and a professional grooming hair dryer for owners to use. An hour-long appointment costs $15, she said, urging people to make reservations.
For Trustworthy Hardware, it is not so much new and innovative products as it is good-quality everyday items that won’t fall apart, said Langlitz.
“People are willing to pay a little more for a product in well-known lines,” she said. “We pride ourselves in being here and having the product.”
The range of items available at the store is huge, with big sellers being Benjamin Moore paints and Weber grills. Trustworthy also has an extensive plumbing department with some of the best pricing in the area, she said.
The store also sells propane, from small tanks for grills to on-board tanks in motor homes.
Trustworthy offers a unique plan for those with pellet stoves, allowing people to buy by the ton but storing the pellets for them so they can pick up the pellets in smaller quantities when they need them.
“We’re always looking to fill a niche that’s not being filled,” she said.
Trustworthy Hardware is very involved in the community and is a Toys for Tots dropoff spot.
“We usually empty our box twice or even three times in a season,” Langlitz said.
The store has supported the Turkey Plunge for the Salvation Army and promotes “anything local on our Facebook page,” she said.
“We’re still a little bit small-town enough to talk about the project we helped you with,” Langlitz said.

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Raina Welch chooses two dog jackets for Domino while shopping with her parents Chris and Samantha Welch and puppy Oreo at the Laconia Pet Center on Union Avenue on Wednesday afternoon.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
  • Category: Local News
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Good fences don’t always make good neighbors in this dispute

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A neighbor in the house on the right built a fence that has upset his neighbor in the house on the left. A city board tried to sort out the dispute Monday night. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — Faced with a neighborhood dispute, the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday night split the baby, or in this case, the fence.

The board required Gordon D. Sanborn to shorten the height of part of a wooden fence obstructing the view of his next-door neighbor, Virginia Edwards, as she looks for traffic when leaving her driveway.

Around Labor Day, Sanborn, of 12 Charles St., went to Boulia-Gorrell Lumber Co. and bought No. 1 grade pressure-treated wood. He dug 2-foot holes for the 4-by-4 posts, anchored them in quick-drying concrete, put on 2-by-4 rails and attached pointy planks.

When he was done, he was proud of his 6-foot fence. It would give him privacy and prevent snow and rocks from flying his way when his neighbor uses a snowblower.

“It's nice quality,” he said. “The pretty side faces her house.”

Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors,” but in this case, the neighbor didn't like the fence.

Virginia Edwards, of 8 Charles St., complained to the city. A code enforcement officer determined the fence was a couple feet too tall. Such front-yard fences are supposed to be only 4 feet.

Sanborn cut the section closest to the street to 4 feet, and then applied for a variance allowing the rest of the fence to stay at 6 feet.

The board granted the request Monday night on condition he take another foot off the front section, dropping it to 3 feet, so Edwards can see above it as she noses her car onto the street.

Neither party was completely satisfied.

“I would have preferred to have that first section removed,” Edwards said. “I'm totally blind when I pull onto the street. If that front piece could have been removed, that would have made my day.

“I'm all of 5-foot 1-inch tall. I'm totally blind when I pull onto the street. I have to cross my fingers and hope for the best. It's an accident waiting to happen.”

For his part, Sanborn thinks he's done enough by creating a 4-foot section closest to the street.

“The ordinance says only 4 feet, and she can get out,” he said.

He said there was a fence in that location before he bought the property in 2014, but the previous owner took that fence with him.

Sanborn also noted there are various spots around town where fences run along driveways, including at a nearby tavern.

“You've got to creep out,” he said. “There are all kinds of blind spots.”

Sanborn said he may appeal the board's ruling.

He is on a pension after 26 years of service in the U.S. Navy, and the fence amounted to a significant investment for him.

His military service included time in Greece.

“Over there, they have 20- to 30-foot concrete walls with broken glass over the top,” he said.

He said the dispute has become personal.

During the zoning board meeting, he accused Edwards of using a particular foul word against his granddaughter. Edwards shouted out a denial.

Commissioner Suzanne Perley, who was running the meeting, had to appeal for calm.

  • Written by Rick Green
  • Category: Local News
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Meredith selectmen look at $15 million budget with 4.4 percent hike

MEREDITH — Town Manager Phil Warren outlined a $15,360,000 budget request at this week’s selectmen’s meeting. The proposal represents an increase of $645,916, or 4.4 percent, from the 2017 budget appropriation.
Warren cautioned that the numbers are in flux as town officials fine tune the budget, but he said a projected 23 percent increase in health insurance premiums is the major driver for the rise in spending.
The proposed general fund budget of $12,454,169 represents an increase of about $486,000, with most of that additional cost being in personnel administration, which includes health insurance.
Warren said the increase is a result of the town’s claims history and has nothing to do with the “outside influences on health care.” Thirty-nine percent of the $450,000 in claims over the past year was due to a small number of large claims.
He said he is working with the insurance carrier to determine whether changes in the policy could reduce costs without creating larger out-of-pocket costs for the employees.
“I’m confident we can come up with something a little more palatable than this,” Warren said.
The proposed budget for the fire department is $359,406, an increase of $53,785, or 17.6 percent. Warren said it is increasingly difficult to get on-call firefighters for night calls and he is proposing a stipend of $25 per night for those on call.
“It’s worth a try,” he said.
The Parks and Recreation Department budget does not include staffing of the skateboard park, but Warren said they may want to include that money.
He noted that he has not heard back from Brendan Hart, who initiated a fund drive to upgrade the skateboard park facilities, to know where that effort stands.
Warren also said the department is looking to strengthen its senior program.
The town’s capital improvement program calls for $1,025,000 in spending, an increase of $145,000.
A new Public Works building and design work for a library upgrade are among the proposals.
Warren said that, by presenting the preliminary budget to the selectmen now, they will have a month to review it and make adjustments prior to the public hearing on the budget.

  • Written by Tom Caldwell
  • Category: Local News
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