Whittemore’s, Main Street’s oldest business, leaving for Belmont

By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — When Dexter Whittemore opened Whittemore's Flower Shop on Laconia's Main Street in 1924, it was to start a new life. Whittemore was born to family that operated large greenhouses in Boston, but, unlike his siblings, Whittemore was sickly, stricken with tuberculosis of the bone and a limp, and not expected to thrive or even survive into adulthood. His family sent him to Arizona, where it was thought that the hot, dry air would help him convalesce. When he returned, healthy, his mother gave him a gift of money. He used the money to buy a tract of land on Academy Street in Laconia, to build greenhouses on that land and to open a storefront to sell his flowers.

That's the early history of the flower shop, according to Dot Steuer, who, along with her now-deceased husband Andy, bought Whittemore from its original owner in 1971. Steuer still works at the flower shop, though she and Andy sold the business to its third and current owners, Kris and Mark Roberts, five years ago when Andy's health began to decline. So, the store's second owner, working for its third owner, will tag along for the business's first move. Yes, Whittemore's Flower Shop, the oldest business on Main Street, will close its doors on Jan. 27 and relocate to the historic farm in Belmont owned by Mark and Kris Roberts.

Kris Roberts said that the floral business faces growing competition from other outlets, such as supermarkets.

"You can't just sell flowers anymore," she said. She hopes to have the flower shop ready to reopen in April as one of the offerings of Badger Hill Farm, located on Hackett Road, about a mile from the intersection of routes 106 and 104. In addition to the flowers, the farm will also have a stand selling vegetables, honey and eggs, and will run an event center where they can host weddings. The scenic farm, situated on 200 acres, is named after Gov. William Badger (1779-1852), who once lived on and farmed the property.

Though the new location won't have the kind of foot traffic that Whittemore's has enjoyed during its 93 years on Main Street, Laconia, Roberts said that those who visit will enjoy a pastoral beauty not available downtown. The farm has hayfields, horses, cows and chickens, and guests will be welcome to walk through the flower gardens.

The move to an agricultural work space is a little intimidating for Steuer, who, although she has lived in Laconia for nearly 50 years, is a city girl at heart. She and Andy are from the New York area, where they grew flowers for sale into the city. Through a business connection, they heard that Whittemore wanted to sell his business. But, he was a particular man, and he didn't want to sell his business to just anyone – he wanted a grower. And, Andy was a grower.

"He could make a broom stick grow flowers on it," said Steuer. "I don't know how he did it." Even so, moving to New Hampshire was a culture shock for the Steuers.

"There's a lot of funny stories. This girl from New York coming up here," she said, such as the time when her employees assumed she was Jewish because she asked them where she could find a good bagel. Looking back, though, she said she wouldn't have had it any other way. Her employees turned into great friends, she and Andy raised children and grandchildren that make her beam with pride, and she continues to love her work.

Steuer creates between 10 and 30 floral arrangements each day. Each one will play an important role in someone's life, and when she's arranging a bouquet, she thinks about the occasion behind it.

"We never have a routine. Every day is different, and you have a chance to be with people that are happy," she said, such as someone in love, "and you deal with the folks that have lost someone. So, you learn about life. It's not all sweetness and light." Even when the customer is grieving, Steuer said, talking about which flowers might be appropriate can help.

"They're so happy to talk about their memories. I try so hard, that when people walk out they're happier," she said – although sometimes Steuer needs a moment to herself afterward.

After that conversation, or even if its just a few notes on an order form, Steuer begins to build an arrangement intuitively; her hands position the stems as if acting of their own volition.

"I've always associated people with colors of flowers," she said. "Often, when people walk in the door, I know right away what to suggest."

 

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Dot Steuer arranges flowers for a client who is delivering them to an ill friend. After owning Whittemore Flower Shop since 1971, and continuing to work for the business after she sold it to its current owners, Steuer's work has adorned life moments, good and bad, for many Lakes Region residents. The shop will be closing on Jan. 27 and later reopening in Belmont. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

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Tiny tour - Builders and community get a look at Huot Center's tiny house

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The students building the "tiny house" at the Huot Career and Technical Center won high marks from members of the Lakes Region Home Builders who cast their professional eyes over the project on Thursday evening.

"It's awesome," exclaimed Kurt Clason of K.A. Class Fine Woodworking Corporation of Laconia. "It's generating a lot of excitement in the school and should draw more kids into the Building Construction program. The benefits of this project will go beyond this year."

Scott Johnson of the Deadriver Company, which has contributed a floor-mounted propane heating system along with a supply of fuel to the project, described the work underway as "spectacular."

Jeremy Doucet of the Lighthouse Construction Group in Gilford, who has assisted with the work on Friday mornings, said the tiny house posed more challenges than a conventional home. Built on a trailer, with just 192 square feet space, he said that it must be secured against moisture yet provide proper ventilation. It must be plumbed, heated and wired in confined space. And the seven-ton home must be built to withstand the rigors of rolling down the road at 60 mph. "There are lots of challenges, enough for my crew," he said.

Doucet said that much of the credit for the success of the project rests with Matt Towle, the instructor, who began with a off-the-shelf design and refined, re-engineered and improved it.

"It's very well built, said Dan Ludwick, a builder from Tuftonboro, as he eyed the framing in the interior of the home. He said that he has a client interested in building three tiny houses to rent in the summer and the project offered some useful examples of how to go about it. A young couple from Concord building a tiny house of their own said that, had they seen the project before they began, they may have been spared from challenges of their own.

Towle said installing the metal roof, spray foam insulation, windows and siding are the next tasks on the agenda. Mike Schofield's plumbing and heating class will be finishing the plumbing for the bathroom and kitchen as well as installing the heating and hot water systems. The siding will highlight the gable ends of the house with bark while lining while the remainder of the house will feature novelty and board-and-batten siding. The windows, aluminum on the exterior and wooden on the interior, are both durable and decorative.

Remarking on the materials and elements of the house, Bob Glassett of Pella Windows and Doors, said "we could have gone cheap, but no. We decided to do it right." He said that along with providing the students with a unique opportunity to construct an entire home, the project is intended to contribute to developing a workforce by generating interest in the building trades among high school students.

Brenda Richards, executive officer of the Lakes Region Homebuilders Association, said that the project has engaged and excited both the students and her members, who have contributed to and assisted with the project. She said the association has already begun planning to do it again.

"If I'm going to do another one," Towle said, "I have the background."

The Huot Technical Center is among four Career Technical Centers participating in this workforce development initiative sponsored by the New Hampshire State Lottery and the New Hampshire Home Builders Association. Altogether, five tiny houses will be built, one each at the Huot Technical Center, Mt. Washington Valley Career and Technical Center, Alvirne High School and two at the Seacoast School of Technology.

When the five tiny houses are complete, they will be displayed and judged at the New Hampshire State Home Show in Manchester in March. Meanwhile, in January, the New Hampshire Lottery will introduce a "Tiny House Big Money" scratch ticket with the winning house as one of the top prizes. The remaining four houses will be auctioned and the proceeds distributed between the schools and New Hampshire Home Builders Association.

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The tiny house at the Huot Center so far. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

 

 

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Siding on the house will incorporate bark for a decorative touch. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

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The loft space in the house. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

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People attending the open house at the Huot Center Thursday night were impressed with the work done so far. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Child-centered services funded

Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center to become model agency

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — With an award from the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center will acquire the building at 95 Water St. where the agency is housed and consolidate all the services it provides under one roof to create a model center in Laconia.

Allegations that a child in Belknap County has been abused, whether received by the Division of Children, Youth and Families or reported to local and regional law enforcement agencies, are referred to the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, which coordinates the investigative process and conducts the forensic interview of the child. When the interviewing process is complete, the child and family are referred to appropriate therapeutic and social services as well as to medical and mental health providers. The agency offers similar services for adult victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. In 2016, the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center reported it handled some 220 cases.
The Granite State Children's Alliance, which operates the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, has been awarded $325,000 worth of tax credits by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, which together with $20,000 from Ronald McDonald Charities and $9,000 from Granite United Way, will provide the initial financing for the project. Phil Hueber, director of resource development for the Granite State Children's Alliance, said that $200,000 of the allotted tax credits have been sold, leaving another $125,000 to be sold by March 31. The Community Development Finance Authority will receive 20 percent of the proceeds have been sold and the agency will net $275,000, of which $150,000 will fund the purchase of the property on Water Street. Hueber said that the agency has applied for a Community Development Block Grant of $575,000 to fund renovations and improvements to the building, which will include modifications to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, an HVAC system and site work.

"The Model Child Advocacy Center," the agency said in a prepared statement, "will be a home for justice, healing and learning."

Megan Noyes, director of program services, said that, along with the interview room, the center will include a medical examination room, a counseling room, a pre-trial room and a group therapy room. She explained that the center partners include law enforcement agencies, which assist with investigations; medical providers experienced in examining children for alleged abuse; prosecutors, who pursue any criminal charges; crisis center advocates, who serve non-offending parents or caregivers; and advocates for victims and witnesses, who shepherd families through through the judicial process.; and child protective services.

Together these services represent what Noyes called a Sexual Assault Response Team, SART, which with the acquisition and conversion of the building will operate under one one roof, sparing the need to shuttle a child from one agency to another and undergo a series of interviews with different individuals in different settings. "We are seeking to minimize the number of interviews," Noyes said, and ensure they are conducted in the same familiar, comfortable place to make it as easy on the child and family as possible.

"The Model CAC will be a home for justice, healing and learning," Noyes said.

The Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, established in 2005, is one of 11 such centers in the state, one in each of the 10 counties and two in Hillsborough County, four of them, including the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center, operated by the Granite State Children's Alliance. The initiative to better protect children began in 1983 with legislation originating in the New Hampshire Senate that led to Attorney General's Task Force of Child Abuse and ultimately to the establishment of the first Child Advocacy Center in Rockingham County in 2001. In July 2003, Gov. Craig Benson convened a Commission for Child Protection, recommended developing a statewide network of Child Advocacy Centers, and four months later secured funding to open the centers.

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