Finding Treasures at Lakes Region Shops

LACONIA —Antiques Week in New Hampshire wraps up today and there are dozens of outstanding dealers and antiques shops in and around the Lakes Region offering a wide variety of collectibles, furniture, fine jewelry, China, glass and memorabilia.
Those looking to enjoy the scenic beauty of the area while searching for antiques can start their day by stopping by Paws Antiques and Collectibles, located on Rte. 3 on the Meredith-Laconia town line.
Owner Scott Grant says that the group shop, located in the former Hearth and Home furniture outlet, has over 5,600 square feet and about 100 dealers and offers high end China and glassware as well as art, furniture and estate jewelry.
He's been into antiques virtually his whole life and recalls selling furniture to the On Golden Pond movie makers back in the 1980s and having his own stall at Burlwood Antiques shortly thereafter.
Now a resident of Alexandria ,Va., Grant says that he's always wanted to have his own antiques business and in 2010 opened the pet-friendly antique shop which also sold pet items with proceeds going to support animal shelters like the New Hampshire Humane Society. and local police K-9 units. Since then he's expanded his community involvement into other areas, including support for summer camp programs for youth.
Grant says that he's constantly working to upgrade the quality of what is offered at Paws and has seen steady growth over the last five years, so much that he was able to expand to a year-round business last winter by keeping the shop open from Friday through Monday from November through April.
He says that primitives and folk art are in great demand these days but there is really no way to describe any overall trend. ''It all depends on who comes through the door. Our idea is too keep it fresh and keep it clean and make the shopping experience a good one for the people who come here. We don't hover over them but are here to be helpful and offer lots of interesting stuff,''
From there a short drive north on Rte. 3 will bring antique shoppers into downtown Meredith and the Meredith Bay Furniture Company at 44 Main Street, just across from the Meredith town offices, where owner Lou Farkas and his wife, Ginny, offer custom built furniture and antiques. The 4,000 square foot building has been open for a little over a month.
A retired electrical engineer who worked on helped develop high tech electronic microscopes, Farkas says that he would unwind from the stress of the intense work by working with his hands to build furniture.
''I did a lot of woodworking for family and friends.'' says Farkas, who bought the former Hickory Stick restaurant in Belmont and has turned it into a private home where he has a woodworking shop and turns out high end furniture, much of it Shaker period pieces, which are really works of art.
''I'm a perfectionist.'' says Farkas, who says that he likes the clean and simple lines of Shaker Furniture as uses a lot of Tiger Maple in his heirloom pieces which provide an appealing contrast in wood grain.
He also does a lot of repurposing using vintage farming implements to create unique furniture items and says that he and his wife offer a variety of antique items which are individually selected for their unique qualities.
From Meredith customers can take Waukewan Avenue out of town and head out onto Rte. 104 for a drive to Bristol and Newfound Lake and visit North Star Gems, four miles north of Bristol Square on the Mayhew Turnpike in Bridgewater.
Joanne Morrill has been offering her own gemstones, glass beads and jewelry from a converted hunter camp for the last 21 years.
She also offers jewelry making supplies, mineral specimens, tumbled stones, fossils and quartz crystal specimens at her shop.
''I've been making jewelry for years and bought the building basically as a way of self-preservation,'' says Morrill, who says that it has proved to be a good location for her on a well-traveled state highway.
She also offers free jewelry making lessons for anyone who wants to develop it as either a hobby or with a goal of selling their work.
Morrill says that she makes all of the items which are for sale in her store and that her works can be seen of her North Star gems website.
Leaving Bridgewater and heading south, antique and collectibles enthusiasts can travel back to New Hampton and then on to Interstate 93 at Exit 23 in New Hampton and get off at Exit 20 in Tilton, where they can take Rte. 140 into Belmont and on to Gilmanton, where they will find the Four Corners Brick House at the intersection of Rte. 107 and Re. 140.
Four Corners Brick House offers a wide variety of antiques in a spectacular setting, an 1810 home which was lovingly restored years ago by Doug Towle and purchased in 2009 by sisters Anne Bartlett and Karen Jenkins.
With its hand hewed floor boards, working fireplaces, matchstick moldings, murals and meticulously painted rooms, the Four Corners Brick House turns shopping into an extraordinary experience. On special days, there might even be a fire in the Keeping Room fireplace.
There is an extensive and eclectic inventory of treasures from 18 different dealers as well as high quality consignments.
From Gilmanton, shoppers can take Rte. 107 north into downtown Laconia, which is a mecca for antiques and collectibles.
There they will find the Laconia Antique Center. Located in a former Newberry's Department Store, the Laconia Antique Center with 22,000 square feet on two stories, is New Hampshire's largest antique and collectible emporium featuring over 150 dealers.
There are bookcases stocked full of vintage books in a comfortable reading area, a wide variety of furniture, lamps, art, maps, prints, glassware, dishware, china, depression glass, stoneware, copper, primitives, estate jewelry, coins, currency, radios, lanterns, bottles, movie posters, advertising, railroad memorabilia, World War II memorabilia, nautical items, ephemera plus many one of a kind items, like a sign from the former Baraks at the Gunstock Inn which advertises ''rugged food and comfortable beds.''
The center also is home to The Finer Diner, run by Ms. Tommie Ryan, which offers a wide variety of sandwiches, soups and comfort food, as well as ice cream.
''Our customers will get something to eat there and her customers will browse the aisles and buy our antiques,'' says Carol Center, manager of the Antique Center.
''We've had a really good summer. Last week we were getting slammed every day,'' says Center.
Another unique pace in downtown Laconia is Newffies Antiques and Collectibles at 16 Pleasant Street, which is the oldest antique store in downtown.
It is now run by Caryn Krahn-Burke, who says she took over the store four years ago from Joe McFall, who started it 15 years ago.
''I'm very eclectic,' says Burke, who says that she will go out of her way to seek out items sought by her customers which are not on her shelves.
''I'll keep my eyes open for it and give them a call if I find it.'' she says
She says that she started collecting things by going to auctions when she was 19 years old and over the years acquired a number of items from estate auctions, so many that she no longer needs to go to auctions to maintain an inventory.
She specializes in vintage clothes and jewelry as well as buying and selling gold and silver A former school teacher in Waterville Valley, Burke now lives in one of the oldest homes in Ashland.
Soon returning to the downtown area is Curiosity and Company, which recently operated out of Paws Antiques and offers Miss Mustard Seed Milkpaint supplies and workshops.


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North Star Gems on Rte. 3-A in Bridgewater has been selling gemstones, glass beads and Jewelry making supplies since 1994 / (Courtesy photo

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Meredith Bay Furniture Company features heirloom furniture and repurposed items like the one shown above. (Courtesy photo)

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Caryn Krahn-Burke of Newffies in downtown Laconia says her shop specializes in vintage clothes, jewelry and offers a wide variety of antiques and collectibles. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Carol Center, manager of the Laconia Antique Center, says that the 22,000 square foot two-story shop has 150 dealers and is the largest in New Hampshire (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Irwin Marine has long and colorful history

LACONIA — Irwin Marine, which is the largest marine dealer in the state of New Hampshire, is a family-owned and operated business which was founded in 1919 by Jim Irwin Sr., who grew up in South Boston and dropped out of school at the age of 13 to become a runner in the city's financial district on Milk Street, where he carried orders and receipts from offices to exchanges and from offices to banks.
An aspiring trumpet player who would go on to form his own band in Boston, Irwin first came to the Lakes Region by train in 1914 and, following service in the Navy in World War I, bought the Music Hall at the Weirs in 1921 and was selling and renting boats from what had been the Weirs Boat Livery, which had been started at the Weirs by Herb Buffum in 1908. In March of 1921 he authored an article for a national boating magazine about the business which was headlined, ''The largest motor garage in the world.'' He even arranged for the first ever ski train which came to the Weirs from Boston in 1922.
In November of 1924 a fire destroyed the Music Hall, along with the New Hotel Weirs but by he following Memorial Day, Irwin had built the Winnipesaukee Gardens dance hall atop the big boat shed and continued his boating business by becoming the New Hampshire dealer for Chris Craft boats, the mahogany boats which became the most popular and well-know boat brand in the country.
The Winnipesaukee Gardens became the center of attention during the Big Band area with as many as 2,500 people a night showing up to dance to the music of the likes of Duke Ellington, Jimmy Dorsey and his Orchestra, Lionel Hampton and Les Brown and his Band of Renown.
When another fire in December of 1939 destroyed the steamship Mount Washington, Irwin played a key role in helping buy the Chateguay in Lake Champiain and have it cut part and shipped by rail to Lakeport where it was reassembled and became the M/S Mt. Washington.
When World War II closed the Gardens ''for the duration'', Irwin built a central kitchen near Laconia High School which delivered meals to the two Scott and Willams locations in the city, which were running three shifts a day, seven days a week as part of the war effort.
It was also during that time that he laid the groundwork for moving Irwin Marine to its current location in Lakeport by making a deal with the Boston and Maine railroad to acquire more than an acre of property next to Paugus Bay in Lakeport where he would build a 700 foot long building for the marine business.
''He talked the railroad into selling him the land by guaranteeing them that after the war all of the Chris Craft boats he bought would be delivered by the Boston and Maine all the way from Michigan,'' says Jack Irwin, who along with his late brother Jim Irwin Jr., took over management of Irwin Marine following their father's death in 1966.
Constriction started in 1944 and by the time the war ended Irwin Marine was able to move to its present location, just as the postwar period arrived.
The following 20 years were among the best ever experienced by both Irwin Marine and the Winnipesaukee Gardens, where a fleet of Chris Crafts offered daily summer boat rides and the Gardens were filled with crowds drawn from all over New England by the most popular big bands in the country.
With the onset of rock and roll, some of the favorite visitors were the Beach Boys, Gary Puckett and the Kingsmen of "Louie, Louie" fame. The era ended in the spring of 1976 when the Gardens was sold.
''We started to get smaller crowds because there wasn't enough parking at the Weirs, especially when the Mount Washington held night cruises,'' Irwin recalls.
There was also a problem with Chris Craft, which underwent bankruptcy in the late 1970s and led to Irwin starting to sell the Sea Ray line of boats.
''In the early 1980s, Sea Ray was the number one boat. I visited their manufacturing plant at Lake Geneva, Illinois and ordered a couple of truckloads. Within two years we were selling more Sea Rays than Chris Crafts,'' says Irwin.
Today Irwin Marine offers several boat lines, including Meridian Yachts, Monterrey Boats, three lines of pontoon boats, Premier, Palm Beach and Berkshire as well as Alumacraft, Old Town canoes and kayaks and several varieties of personal watercraft, including Sea-Doo and Yamaha.
In addition to its Lakeport location, Irwin Marine also operates from locations in Hudson, Alton and Alton Bay and has management teams at Mountain View Yacht Club, and South Down Shores.
The current management team consists of Jack's sons, John and Bill Irwin, and Bruce Wright.
''We continue to focus on providing a safe and rewarding workplace for our employees and delivering the best product available and exceptional service to the boating community'' says Irwin.

Bill Irwin, vice president of sales and marketing; Jack Irwin, president and John J. Irwin, vice president and parts director, head up the management team at Irwin Marine. (Courtesy photo)

Legendary Boston Whalers are top sellers for Shep Brown's Boat Basin

MEREDITH — Shep Brown's Boat Basin has been providing services for Lake Winnipesaukee boaters ever since 1919, making it one of the oldest marinas in the entire state.
Located on Meredith Neck, the full-service marina provides complete on-the-water facilities including new and used boat sales, service and parts, a ship's store with clothing and accessories, a fuel dock, pump-out services slips, a public boat launch as well as valet service and winter storage for 600 boats.
It also provides boat rentals as well as a cottage rental service and brokerage boat sales.
Charity Littlefield, who along with her husband Bill Littlefield, Jr., have owned Shep Brown's since 2002, says that its best-selling boat line is the iconic Boston Whaler, which is offered in a wide variety of models ranging from 13 foot SuperSports up to the new 42 foot-long Outrage.
Littlefield says that Boston Whaler has acquired a reputation for its seaworthiness and that for many years the company has sawed boats in half to illustrate their durability, performance, smooth ride and "unsinkability".
A 1961 Life magazine ad pictured Boston Whaler owner and developer Dick Fisher sitting in a floating 13' Whaler with a crosscut saw halfway through the hull. After the cut was completed, Fisher used the stern section to tow the bow section back to shore. Modern Whaler advertising uses a chain saw. Due to the foam core construction, the Whaler will remain afloat when sawed completely in half. Boston Whaler boats also remain afloat when completely swamped . Because of these attributes, Boston Whaler's trademarked sales line is "the unsinkable legend".
Littlefield says that the Shep Brown's also has very active sales with it's line of Xcursion pontoon boats, which offer both luxury and convenience for those seeking long, fun afternoons on the lake.
Shep Brown's Boat Basin II, located near Patrick's Pub in Gilford, is the Gilford showroom for Shep Browns and is filled with a wide variety of Boston Whalers.
Shep Brown's has a new partner to help service southern New Hampshire, Granite State Boatworks in Milford, which was founded in 1994 and is convenient to Nashua, Manchester, Northern Mass., and coastal New Hampshire.

Boston Whalers, famed for being unsinkable, are the best selling boats at Shep Brown's Boat Basin. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)