Fire N’ Stone opens new showroom Friday after accidental fire in August


TILTON — Aug. 2 was a bad day for SAF Fire N' Stone, the full-service stove, hearth and chimney business that has been located on Laconia Road for six years. On that day, a delivery truck knocked down the power lines, which landed on the showroom building and started a fire that has rendered the building unusable.

The end of summer is the beginning of the heating season, so there was no time to sit idle while a new building could be constructed. So, while their employees were busy servicing customers with installation of new stoves and chimney repairs, owners Angelo and Sarah Farruggia scrambled to construct a showroom space within the warehouse, located at the same Laconia Road address.

Fire N' Stone will be hosting a grand opening of its new showroom this weekend.

"It's not as grand as we're used to," Angelo Farruggia said, looking around the space, but the renovated warehouse serves its role as a place to display a range of wood, gas and pellet stoves, both free-standing and wall inserts. The showroom is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The grand opening weekend kicks off on Friday, Sept. 30, and will mark the beginning of a 10-day sale, featuring discounts on stoves, parts and installation.

It took a Herculean effort to convert half of the warehouse into a space welcoming for customers. Carpentry, gas lines, painting – the list of tasks kept Farruggia busy for most of his waking hours since the fire. It was far more than he could handle himself, and with his crew busy around the clock with service calls, he said he owes his grand opening to the willingness of local contractors to work Fire N' Stone into their schedules.

"What made it possible, beyond my own guys' work, was the local contractors who stepped up," he said, naming Joe Boxer Plumbing, Total Security, Absolute Electrical, Steve Buy Heating and Cooling, and Same Day Computers as especially helpful in his predicament. "Without them, we'd be dead in the water."

Farruggia said he and Sarah plan to rebuild the burned-out building, which will take about a year to complete. Until then, Fire N' Stone will be able to serve customers out of the warehouse-turned showroom.

"We are still trucking along – we're still here to serve everybody, and make sure they're warm and safe this winter," he said.

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Angelo and Sarah Farruggia are hosting a grand opening of their new showroom, located at 539 Laconia Road in Tilton, on Friday and Saturday. The showroom was fashioned out of a space in the business's warehouse after a fire, caused by a delivery truck, destroyed the original showroom. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Adam Drapcho)

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The new fireplace and stove displays at the store. (Laconia Daily Sun photos/Adam Drapcho)


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Tourism officials predict record-breaking fall season


GILFORD — As New Hampshire's nationally renowned foliage viewing season starts, state tourism officials are predicting that the brilliant, red, yellow and flame orange hues will translate into a lot of folding green currency for Granite State businesses.
Speaking at a gathering of state officials and tourism leaders at Gunstock Mountain Resort's new mountain coaster Tuesday, Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, predicted a 5 percent increase in fall visitors and a 6 percent increase in spending compared to last year.
He said New Hampshire is predicted to have 9.5 million visitors this fall with $1.42 billion in direct spending.
Rose said that the forecast for a record-breaking fall season is based on a number of a factors, including a strong economy, low gas prices and advance reservations following a strong summer. He said that Rooms and Meals Tax revenue so far this year is $300 million, up $20 million over 2015.
"Last year New Hampshire saw more than 39 million visitors, which marks a 5 percent increase over the previous year. And visitors spent $5.5 billion, a seven percent increase over 2014," said Rose, who added "The fall season is a significant contributor to New Hampshire's tourism economy."
He said that New Hampshire has a lot to offer fall visitors in addition to its fabulous foliage, including recreational opportunities, a rich history and tax-free shopping.
Lorraine Merrill, the state Commissioner of Agriculture, said that agritourism is thriving on New Hampshire farms with harvest celebrations, farm to table meals, family outings, corn mazes and weddings, as well as pick-your-own operations in orchards and fields.
"Working agriculture is a big part of tourism and provides a backdrop for visitors," she said.
Merrill said agritourism has grown from 16 farms with $265,000 in income in 2001 to 190 farms with $3.8 million in income in 2012, making it the fastest-growing part of the state's agricultural economy.
The state's Division of Travel and Tourism Development unveiled its fall campaign to bring more tourists to the state. Victoria Cimino, director of the DTTD, said that the number of foreign visitors has increased and the state is seeing more visitors from paces as far away as California, Texas and Florida.
The new campaign targets Boston, New York, Toronto and Montreal, and a Live Free strategy is being utilized which touts the state's recreational opportunities.
Amy Landers of the Lakes Region Tourism Association said that this September has been a record-breaking month in the Lakes Region. She said Gunstock enjoyed its best Labor Day weekend ever and noted that Gunstock's chairlift rides were up 30 percent over last year and that Squam Lakes area attractions are showing 25 percent increases.
Greg Goddard, general manager at Gunstock, said the new mountain coaster has had such robust sales that it will remain open through November along with other Adventure Park attractions.

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Jeffrey Rose, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, predicted a 5 percent increase in fall visitors and a 6 percent increase in spending compared to last year at a gathering at Gunstock Mountain Resort Tuesday. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Lakeport Landing Marina seeks to buy Lakeport Fire Station


LACONIA — Erica Blizzard, who owns and operates Lakeport Landing Marina, has offered to purchase the Lakeport Fire Station on Elm Street, along with one abutting and another nearby lot, where the company would construct its showroom and offices.

Since 1985, Lakeport Landing has operated on an adjacent lot fronting on Union Avenue owned by the city and leased to the company under an agreement that expired on Nov. 1, 2015, when ownership reverted to the city. Blizzard sought to purchase the property, but when the City Council invited bids for the lot, Irwin Marine, which owns the abutting property, submitted the highest offer. In agreeing to sell the property to Irwin Marine, the city stipulated that that it would not be transferred for two years to allow Blizzard time to relocate her business and granted her a two-year lease, which will expire on Nov. 1, 2017.

Meanwhile, Blizzard brought suit against the city, claiming that a prior city council granted her father, the late Paul Blizzard, a right of first refusal to purchase the property when the lease expired, and that City Manager Scott Myers exceeded his authority by offering the property to competitive bidders.

The court granted Irwin Marine's petition to intervene in the litigation then ordered all three parties to seek to settle their dispute through mediation. Last month, the mediator informed the court that a "tentative settlement" had been reached and the city asked the court to stay the trial scheduled for December.

Although the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, the city said that it would require review by "the City Council, city boards and state agencies," which could take "many months, if not a year."

Mayor Ed Engler declined to comment, saying that the matter is in litigation.

This week, the City Council was presented with Blizzard's offer. She offered $127,700 for three lots, which together amount to less than an acre. The lot housing the Lakeport Fire Station is 0.32 acres, and the lot abutting it to the rear of the building is 0.195 acres. Blizzard, in her offer to the City Council, said that the company would like to preserve the fire station, but indicated that it would not be feasible to convert it to commercial uses. Instead, she proposed to demolish the fire station and construct a 10,000-square-foot building on the cleared lot. What remains of the 0.81 lot formerly leased by Lakeport Landing, a narrow strip between Union Avenue and the railroad track, would be used for parking.

The Lakeport Association has long resisted the demolition of the fire station. Blizzard agreed that if the fire station were demolished, the company would place a permanent memorial, displaying a photograph of the building with an explanation of its significance to the city, at an appropriate location on the site.

The two lots include about 132 feet of municipal right-of-way — Railroad Avenue. Blizzard would grant an easement to the city confirming its right to Railroad Avenue and, to the extent possible, make parking spaces on the north side of the street available to the general public for parking.

The council scheduled a public hearing on Blizzard's offer at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11. The first step in the process is for the council to declare the property surplus and eligible for sale.

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The outlined area is encompasses the Lakeport Fire Station and abutting property being considered for sale to Erica Blizzard for the relocation of her Lakeport Landing Marina boat business. It is located at the corner of Elm and Union streets. (Courtesy Google Maps)

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The Lakeport Fire Station, as shown on the city of Laconia's website. (Courtesy photo)

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