LACONIA — The prospects for downtown brightened last month as three properties changed hands, each purchased by a different local owner, but together presenting an investment of nearly $800,000 in the center of the city.
Charlie St. Clair, owner and operator of the Laconia Antique Center doing business as Casablanca Industries LLC, acquired the building at the corner of Main and Hanover streets, where the business has operated since 2011. The purchase price was $315,000. Originally a J.J. Newberry's five and dime store, the 14,000-square-foot building long housed the popular Bloom's Variety Store, which closed in 2008.
"I like downtown Laconia," said St. Clair. "I like the urban feel to it and believe it has great potential." He said that his business, leasing space to some 150 antique dealers, has "done well downtown," but acknowledged that since traffic on Main Street has been detoured to facilitate reconstruction of the Main Street Bridge business has slowed.
"Financially it made more sense to buy the building than to go on leasing," St. Clair explained. "It's a great building," he continued, adding that he expected to "spiff it up some."
Just up the street, the Condodemetraky brothers — Chris and Mark — doing business as Levendi Properties LLC, purchased the Piscopo Block at 633-637 Main St. for $392,500. More than half the building will become the headquarters of GC Engineering, the brothers' civil engineering firm specializing in flood plain management.
"We employ eight people and we're expanding," said Chris. The ground floor is leased to four successful commercial tenants — MC Cycle & Sport, All My Life Jewelers., Greenlaw's Music and Attorney David Bownes.
"We're excited to be downtown," Mark said. He described access to high speed internet service as "a gamechanger" and a significant factor in the success of their engineering business. They said that they expect downtown to undergo a revival — "to improve dramatically," adding: "We want to be part of it, to be part of the solution."
A mainstay of Main Street, Daub's Cobbler Shop, will move to 24 Canal St. by next month. Jim Daubenspeck purchased the building for $75,000 and expanded the size of his shop from 900 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
"It's more of a risk with higher up-front costs," he said, "but you control your own space and your own destiny." Although his business continues to grow, he remarked, "I still tell everybody who wears shoes to tell their friends about it." Daubenspeck noted that while the move would not lead to a significant change in the nature of the business, he expects to expand his retail inventory of high quality footwear.
"I looked at space in Meredith, Gilford and Belmont," Daubenseck admitted, "but I realized the smartest place for me to be is right here in downtown Laconia. Everybody who is here wants to be here," he continued, "and with more owner-occupied buildings it will be a great place to do business."