LACONIA — Twenty-three years ago, when Edward Jones, the financial services firm, moved its office from Union Square to downtown, Priscilla Kaiser, the office manager, went with it and this summer, when the firm returned to Union Square, she returned with it.
"I've gone full circle," she remarked.
Explaining the odyssey, financial advisor Ben Wilson said that last year, as the business began outgrowing its space at 588 Main Street, he began scouting around the city for new digs. He recalled that after looking at half a dozen offices and only to reject them all he found himself enjoying an ice cream cone at the Happy Cow on Union Avenue. Across the street at Union Square, he noticed an empty Victorian duplex with peeling paint and frayed shingles.
"It was really in bad shape," Wilson said. The front door led directly two staircases, each serving a separate two-story unit. "The space was unusable," he remarked," and the building had been flooded."
Nevertheless, Wilson and building owner David Livingston reached an agreement and the building was thoroughly renovated. "It was a total gut job," Wilson said, "inside and out." A winding path, which Wilson said a friend has dubbed "the yellow brick road", provides handicapped access from Union Avenue to a newly constructed side entrance leading to a foyer graced with artwork. The porch facing Union Avenue, once struck by a wayward automobile, will no longer serve as an entrance but instead will be landscaped. Edward Jones occupies the ground floor, which includes a reception area, three corner offices, a conference room and a kitchenette. While a separate entrance and staircase to the second floor was added to the building, for the moment the space is vacant.
"I had some trepidation about leaving downtown," Wilson confessed, "but we doubled our space and got access to plenty of parking. And we restored an old Victorian building and contributed to revitalizing Union Square."
Edward Jones, founded in 1922 and headquartered in Missouri, is a unique financial services firm catering primarily to individual investors and small business owners. Offices are staffed by less than a handful of people, generally with only one financial advisor, who is a licensed broker, and located in communities where large operations would not be profitable. Wilson said that while he will continue to serve the Laconia market he expects two of his associates to open offices in Gilford and Belmont in the near future. "We work as individuals with the backing of a nationwide firm," Wilson said.
Meanwhile, Kaiser, who was busy seeking to position a houseplant, said that she was pleased to return to Union Square, especially in her new surroundings.
CAPTION: Financial advisor Ben Wilson of Edward Jones is proud of his firm's new quarters at Union Square, renovated in cooperation with its owner David Livingston, which offers a fresh face on to Union Avenue. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)
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