Published DateLACONIA — Jeanne Howe Compton got into chair caning when she was operating an antique store on Pleasant Street in Laconia. As she explained, she simply grew tired of turning down customers looking to get their heirloom furniture refurbished.
"Customers always asked me if I knew anyone that could cane chairs. I always said no. Then one day I said yes and took the chair home and learned."
That was about 10 years ago. Compton, a Laconia native, took a five-year hiatus from antiques and chair caning while she worked as a stage hand throughout the region and country, then last year decided she was ready to settle back into the life of the downtown business owner. In August, she opened New England Porch Rockers,located on Pleasant Street between the antique store she used to own and the Downtown Deli. When she heard of the deli owners' plans to relocate in April to the lunch counter at the Laconia Antique Center, Compton jumped on the opportunity to expand her business.
Orders at New England Porch Rockers has kept Compton busy, something she attributes to her skill and her observation that there's no other storefront business in the region that refurbishes cane chairs or porch rockers. In addition to refurbishing and repairing antique chairs, Compton also gives lessons on the craft. She'd also like to be able to offer a selection of chairs for retail sale, but doesn't have the space.
Come April, Compton will have much more space. That's when Elisa and Drew Seneca, owners of the Downtown Deli, will vacate the space and move across Main Street. Compton plans to be hot on their heels, renovating the space to suit her needs and opening her newly expanded venture around April 8.
Compton plans to call her expanded business The Emporium. She plans to partner with several dealers, who will offer antiques, fiber arts, pottery, furniture, hand-made jewelry, and as she said, "whatever else comes in the door."
"I'm looking for people who want to get started in business, but don't want to rent a whole store," she said. She hopes it will be an eclectic mix, but one where all items are made in the United States, and most of it will be produced in New Hampshire. "We should buy local," she said. "It builds our economy if we buy from each other."
Compton, who remembers a more vibrant time for downtown Laconia, thinks there's a good chance that the city center can again become a destination for shoppers. However, with the departure of anchor stores such as the Sundial Shop and Bloom's Variety store, she sees a need for a greater variety of wares. She hopes The Emporium can help expand the range of items available downtown. "With the Sundial gone, you can't come down and buy a card, a gift. I think that people are looking for more than antiques but antiques are what draws people downtown... I just think there's more to life than antiques."
Compton's store is currently open Monday through Saturday, though she may expand her hours when her business expands. "I'm excited, looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to having more room, and seeing what direction this takes me."
CAPTION for PORCH ROCKERS in AA:
Jeanne Howe Compton, owner of New England Porch Rockers in downtown Laconia, works on a client's rocker. In April, when the neighboring Downtown Deli vacates its Pleasant Street space, Compton plans to expand her business into that storefront. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)