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Investors rescue Alton spring water bottling company

ALTON — It's been an uphill battle for a small spring water bottling company here which three years ago was named New Hampshire's Best Drink of Water, only to spiral into a near foreclosure in 2012, which was only averted when friends and loyal customers ponied up some $53,000 to keep the business afloat.
''We were so close to closing our doors forever. But people read about our situation in The Daily Sun and rallied around us,'' says Deanna O'Shaughnessy, who along with her husband, Timothy Morgan, and sister, Fae Kontje-Gibbs , founded Chamberlain Springs on the 300-acre Sunny Slope Farm some nine years ago.
She said that the outpouring of support was heartwarming and included a visit from a friend, who brought with her a bottle of wine, a four-leaf clover and a check for $530 and encouragement to continue the effort to keep the company alive.
''I guess everything happens for a reason,'' says O'Shaughnessy, who said that the company, newly renamed as Nh2o, recently received an infusion of a capital from a Boston man who has an interest in seeing small, start-up companies succeed.
''One of the persons who read the story in The Daily Sun was Arthur Casey of Bristol, a retired businessman who told us that he was pretty good with numbers and could help us. He said that he loved old family farms and liked what we were doing to make ours survive,'' she says.
She said that Casey was able to contact the Boston businessman who eventually provided the funding last fall but it wasn't until March of this year that he was able to visit the company and see it's operations.
''He told us 'this is good' and said he would help us. That gave us some breathing space and let us take out another loan on the farm,'' said O'Shaughnessy, who said that she and her partners are now in partnership with Newfound Business Associates, which is run by Casey's wife, Cheryl.
''It's been an interesting spring. We're reaching out to our old customers and have gone back to self-delivery. And we're improving our product with new waterproof labels and have got a new capper. And our new summer labels arrived just the day before we were scheduled to deliver 80 cases of glass bottles to the Heron Pond Farmer's Market in Kingston. So we've got new labels and lots of water and things are really looking up for us,'' she says.
She said that the initial plan for the company, which drilled a 585 foot well in 2004 to tap into its water, was to market the water as a bulk product. That plan was dropped after it became apparent that the construction costs of a new building and necessary infrastructure was just too steep.
''We decided to bottle it ourselves, which was probably not the best decision, but it seemed like the only alternative we had.'' she says.
In 2009, Profile Bank and the Belknap Economic Development Council provided a funding package to create Nh2o, a company that put the water in 750 milliliter bottles and distributes them through restaurants, grocery stores and at outdoor markets. Profile Bank's loans included $177,000 for start-up costs and an additional line of credit. However, O'Shaughnessy said that getting the business off the ground took more than they had estimated. "We were seriously under-capitalized. It cost a lot more to do everything than we anticipated."
She said that she is extremely grateful to Profile Bank for all the help that it extended to the company during it's financial problems and is looking to see the company move ahead on a firm financial footing and build itself into a profitable venture, which will help keep Sunny Slope Farm, which currently rents space to vacationers and for weddings, intact and thriving.

 

Deanna O'Shaughnessy of Nh2o holds two bottles of water which earned accolades as New Hampshire's Best Drink of Water in 2010. The reconstituted and renamed water bottling company has received an infusion of capital and is now recreating its former distribution network. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

 

 
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