Published Date Written by Adam DrapchoLACONIA — Drew and Elisa Seneca purchased the Downtown Deli on Pleasant Street about five and a half years ago. The past few years have been lean for them, as the recent recession has robbed their customers of their lunch money. With little expectation that sales would return to heyday levels this year, the couple began looking for ways to re-shuffle their business to remain viable and in downtown Laconia. The solution to their problem, they determined, was to relocate to the lunch counter at the nearby Laconia Antique Center, where owner Charlie St. Clair had been operating an ice cream counter.
As Elisa recalled, she and Drew were discussing their business options one day when St. Clair, a regular patron, was in the deli. "We were talking about selling it, closing it, whatever we could do," she said. Elisa jokingly suggested to St. Clair that the Senecas move into his expansive antique center on Main Street; St. Clair didn't see the proposal as so humorous. "He thought it was a great idea," said Elisa.
The Senecas will begin operating the lunch counter at the antique center as of April 1. They will be serving patrons from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. In addition to the homemade soups and sandwiches the deli has become known for, the Senecas will also offer the ice cream dishes — sundaes, frappes, ice cream floats — that St. Clair had been offering at the lunch counter. They will still offer catering and will also continue to serve locally-roasted Woodshed coffee, Drew emphasized.
"All of our customers are really excited about it," Drew said about the move. It won't be the first time that lunch has been served in the building that houses the antique center. The building was long the home of J.J. Newbury's department store, then Bloom's Variety, both of which operated a popular lunch counter. "We're trying to make that cook again," said Drew.
By trading a stand-alone shop to a lunch counter within a larger store, the Senecas will achieve what Drew called a "substantial savings" in the costs of running their business, while also gaining the opportunity to tempt the many shoppers that visit the antique center. Similarly, St. Clair said he's expecting the lunch counter operation to draw more potential shoppers into his store.
He can count Laconia Fire Chief Ken Erickson as one of the Senecas' regular customers who will now be taking his lunch in the antique center. "Best sandwiches in Laconia," Erickson stated.
"I'm very happy to have them," St. Clair said of his new tenants. Management of the ice cream counter had proven a challenge. Lately, the counter was only open on weekends. "It's been hard for me, with staffing, to keep it open as much as I'd like to."
For the Senecas, though, the best part of the arrangement is that it gives them the chance to continue doing business where they want: Downtown Laconia. Elisa said, "It keeps us down here, we didn't want to leave."
Drew said, "We definitely did not want to leave downtown — we love it here."
CAPTION for LUNCH COUNTER in AA:
Drew and Elisa Seneca hold the sign for the Downtown Deli behind the counter at the Laconia Antique Center. Sitting at the counter is Charlie St. Clair, owner of the antique store. As of April 1, the Senecas will operate a lunch and ice cream counter in the same spot. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)