ALTON — Four years after NH2O was named the Best Drink of Water in New Hampshire, Deanna O'Shaughnessy and Tim Morgan, the principals of Chamberlain Springs, have shut down their bottled water operation at Sunny Slope Farm.
The company has struggled financially since it began in 2005 as an effort to generate the revenue to secure the future of the 282 acres, which has been farmed since the 18th century and owned by O'Shaughnessy's family since 1937. In 2012, threatened with losing the very property, O'Shaughnessy and Morgan sought to protect, they escaped foreclosure when family and friends raised $53,000 to stave off the bank. A year later the company gained another infusion of capital from an investor in Boston and partnered with Newfound Business Associates.
O'Shaugnessy said yesterday that Arthur Casey of Bristol, a retired businessman who wife Cheryl manages Newfound Business Associates, assessed the company's financial condition and concluded it would have to raise the price of its bottled water to turn a profit. She said that NH2O was already priced near the top of the market, fearing a higher price would be "the kiss of death," particularly since the 32 Hannaford stores distributing the product added 40 percent to the wholesale price.
"We had to try something," O'Shaughnessy said. She said that with the higher price the volume of sales shrunk and Hannafords, the largest seller of NH2O, began taking the product off its shelves.
Meanwhile, O'Shaughnessy said that Chamberlain Springs bottling license was nearing renewal, which would require extensive testing of both the well water and bottled water. "I call it the 'full Monty'," she remarked, estimating the cost of the testing at $5,000. She said that the company had nearly exhausted its stock of plastic and glass bottles, which would require an expenditure of $6,000 to replenish. Finally, although the company restructured its commercial loan from Profile Bank, O'Shaughnessy said that a note will fall due in May. She said that she had had some discussions with the bank, but had no assurance a satisfactory arrangement could be reached.
O'Shaughnessy said that despite closing the business, she intends to renew the "large groundwater extraction permit" granted to Chamberlain Springs by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in 2009. She said the permit represents an investment of four years and $1.1 million. "We put everything we had into that," she remarked, "and we'll keep it as long as I'm alive. Hopefully our children will make something of it."
The permit allows Chamberlain Springs to draw 223,200 gallons of water a day from 585-foot deep well at the farm. O'Shaughnessy that in the five years NH2O was bottled and sold, the company drew 39,000 gallons of water from the well.
O'Shaughnessy expressed her gratitude to all those — family, friends, partners and customers — for their support and patronage.