Gilford Gift Outlet to close after 30 years


GILFORD — The Gilford Gift Outlet is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, but at the end of the summer will be closing for good. Unlike some gift shops in the area, the Gilford Gift Outlet is going out on its own terms, finishing off another successful year. After 30 years in the location at Patrick's Place that allowed owner Eric Young to open two other gift stores in New Hampshire, it's now time to scale back and look towards retirement.
Young was studying marine science and planning on working on research vessels when failing a vision test kept him from gaining a Coast Guard certification. He transferred schools and went into the family card and gift business. After 10 years of working for the family, it was time for him to branch out on his own, and he knew the perfect spot. His father, Robert, had built the building that is now home to Patrick's Pub and a New Hampshire Liquor Store, along with the Gilford Gift Outlet. When Eric Young moved into the location in his father's building, he said, "It was a very quiet corner."
"What put the plaza on the map," Young said, "was Walter Kelleher opening up Patrick's." The addition of Patrick's added greatly to the amount of traffic the Gift Outlet received. More people were noticing the Gilford Gift Outlet as they came to the plaza, and people waiting to get into Patrick's would stop in and peruse. Many small gift stores have had great locations and been unable to stay in business as larger chains that sell greeting cards and gifts centered on life on the lake have prospered at the smaller businesses' expense.
Given the seasonal nature of sales of such items in the area and the many economic swings we have seen over the last 30 years, it might come as a surprise to many that the Gilford Gift Outlet has been open full time, seven days a week, year-round since its inception. Young explains that he does this so that his employees can have consistent pay year-round, and it is obvious that his employees appreciate his support. One employee, Laureen, even goes as far as to say "I don't think I could ever work for anyone else."
As for the business the gift shop does, Young said his T-shirt and sweatshirt business is phenomenal, making up 25 percent of sales. Yankee Candle has been a huge boost in recent years as well. Some smaller sales phenomena that have occurred over the years are certainly more apparent to people in Young's trade. During an economic downturn the business was making do but incurring some debts when the Beanie Baby craze hit. Young said "Beanie Babies kept a lot of stores like mine going." The sales of these specialized stuffed animals was so great that his store immediately increased its profits by a substantial margin and went on to have a great sales year.
These days, when people come into the store and see the store's closing sale in progress, they often say "I'm so sorry you're leaving" and wonder where they're going to go next summer. This sentiment is greatly appreciated on the part of Young, and while it is bittersweet in a certain sense he believes it is the right decision. The store will be open through Sept. 20, with large mark-downs, as they sell to the bare walls.

09-07 gift store closes

The Gilford Gift Outlet will close Sept. 21 after 30 years in its location next to Patrick's Pub. (Brendan Sorrell/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Man who sold fentanyl in Tilton OD case to plead guilty


LACONIA — The man accused of selling fentanyl to a 21-year-old Tilton man who died of an overdose filed a sealed document in the Belknap County Superior Court Tuesday indicating his willingness to plead guilty.

Brian Watson, 51, formerly of Northfield, had been scheduled for a final pretrial and a hearing on some pending motions Monday but was given a plea-and-sentencing date of Nov. 7.

Watson's case was scheduled for trial on Sept. 12 and the jury was scheduled to be selected next Monday.

Watson allegedly sold fentanyl to Seth Tilton-Fogg, who was found dead of an overdose in his family home in the morning of April 3, 2015. He was arrested and charged by Tilton Police on May 8 after an intense investigation.

Since his arrest, Watson's attorney, Mark Sisti, has filed a number of motions to eliminate much of the state's evidence but did not prevail on a pivotal attempt to stop a jury from hearing a 30-minute interview with Tilton detectives in which Watson made a number of incriminating statements.

In addition, one of the state's key witnesses against him was his former girlfriend, Teeana Bryson, who was given immunity in November so she could testify against him. Although she failed to show up for a few hearings in court, she was compelled by the court to testify at this trial.

According to an article published in The Portland Press Herald by Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne, the crime is punishable by life in prison, although the court takes each case, including Watson's, individually.

While it has been for a number of years, Ronayne spoke to the New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster, who said this type of crime is being charged and prosecuted more vigorously now, especially in cases where fentanyl is involved, because of the recent opioid epidemic sweeping the country.

Fentanyl is a synthetic version of heroin and is known to be far more powerful than heroin. In his statements to Tilton Police, Watson told them he knew he was selling Tilton-Fogg fentanyl and warned him not to use too much. Watson told police he knew it was fentanyl because it smelled differently than heroin.

In August, County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen received permission from the Belknap County commissioners to apply for a grant from the New Hampshire Department of Justice for $5,500 to pay for expert witness fees to bring an expert witness from NMS Labs in Pennsylvania to testify in the case.

Sisti planned on challenging the evidence at trial because the state medical examiner had sent a sample of Tilton-Fogg's blood to Pennsylvania for an analysis that determined he died of "acute fentanyl poisoning."

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Belknap County District 3 commission race heats up


LACONIA — The contest for the Belknap County District 3 Commission seat between Commissioner Hunter Taylor of Alton and Jonathan Smolin of Alton for the Republican nomination for a two-year term is one of the most closely watched in the county.

09-03 Hunter Taylor HSHunter Taylor
Taylor, who was appointed by a unanimous vote of the County Delegation to fill the position of County Commissioner for District 3, representing Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford and Meredith, following the resignation of Steve Nedeau in December 2014, said he is proud of the achievements of the commission over the past 18 months and would like to continue to work with Commission Chairman David DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) to bring effective, transparent and fiscally responsible solutions to county problems.
He is a retired attorney who had a private practice in New Jersey and has taught at the University of Georgia and Rutgers University law schools and moved to Alton following his retirement in 2010. While in New Jersey, he served as a school board member for nine years; and four years, three as chairman, of a land use board in Mount Holly.

09-02 Jonathan SmolinJonathan Smolin
Smolin, a surgical assistant at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro, said he will bring significant private business experience to the commission and is concerned about keeping the services provided by county government affordable. He said he originally was a mechanical engineer who built race cars and exotic cars in New York and started a second career in the medical field after graduating from the Maine Medical School of Surgical Technology in Portland, Maine in 1997. He and his wife and two sons moved to Alton in 2005.
He started several businesses and served as director for a year (2012-13) of the Satler School for Nursing in Manchester, where he said he also was chairman of the surgical technology program, but decided to return to the operating room several years ago.
Smolin ran for governor in the 2014 Republican primary, finishing fourth with 2,620 votes, a little over 2 percent of the total votes cast. During his campaign, he said he was opposed to both a personal income and general sales tax and would follow the lead of Colorado by legalizing the use of marijuana as well as open the state to casino gambling.
He also said that he would eliminate Common Core from the public school system and empower local school districts to determine the appropriate curriculum and testing for their students.
Smolin has said that the programs advocated by Taylor could lead to an unwarranted expansion of human services which would outpace the county's ability to pay and cited a lack of support for Taylor's campaign by county legislators as reasons why people should look at supporting him.
Taylor said the new community corrections center and renovations to the existing jail, both of which are both scheduled for completion before the end of 2017, are among the accomplishments he is most proud of. He says that previous commissioners were looking at a $42.6 million facility and the cost of the one under construction will be less than $8 million.
Taylor also pointed to the savings realized in reduced health insurance costs of nearly $200,000 achieved through collective bargaining agreements with three of the four county unions. He headed the county team that negotiated the three collective bargaining agreements.
He said the major issues facing Belknap County in the foreseeable future include not only substance abuse and related problems, but also the rapidly aging population of the county. He noted that in addition to the costs related to the operation of the Belknap County Nursing Home, the county now pays a little over $6 million annually for senior care to fund the non-federal share of Medicaid benefits for long-term care of needy seniors who are Belknap County residents.
"It is crucial to better and more affordably serve the needs of our needy seniors," said Taylor. "We need programs that allow them to live in their homes longer. Such programs would be a win for the seniors and a win for the taxpayers. These programs need to be developed now before we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis."
Taylor said he has clashed with members of the County Delegation over priorities for the county and said his advocacy on behalf of outside agencies, whose funding was cut by the delegation, has no doubt cost him the support of some of those legislators. But he said those agencies provide services which are critical to the county and should be funded.
Smolin, whose campaign has been aided by George Hurt (R-Gilford), who is not seeking re-election, has also been endorsed by Rep., Mike Sylvia (R-Belmont) and District Two County Commission candidate Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton)
Taylor has been endorsed by fellow commissioner DeVoy, and most recently was endorsed by a candidate for the legislature from Gilford, who attended a meeting in Gilford in early July along with other candidates for legislative seats from Gilford and Meredith which Smolin attended and at which a joint advertising venture of the candidates and Smolin was discussed.

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