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Family connection behind Florida sign company's relocation to Laconia

LACONIA — Big Daddy's Signs, owned and operated by Steve and Jeanne Zwicker, has moved from Winter Garden, Florida to Laconia, where the firm has leased 5,000-square-feet at 24 Lexington Drive in the O'Shea Industrial Park.

The family firm produces all types of custom signs, including yard signs, vehicle magnets traffic signals and vinyl banners, for a wide range of applications, including business advertising, real estate, event promotion, political campaigns. Its customers include a variety of businesses as well as cities and towns. "Jeanne Zwicker said the political package, consisting of lawn signs, vehicle magnets and vinyl banners, is especially popular. "There always lots of elections going on all over the place," she said, "and not just in November." The company markets its products primarily by means of the Internet and serves more than 350 wholesale and 1,000 retail customers.

Zwicker said the business began 10 years ago and is now well established and intending to grow. She explained that .the firm operates two high-speed digital printers and is working with the Belknap Economic Development Council to secure financing to purchase a new printer to replace the older of the two machines. Ultimately she said that they expect to operate three printers. Currently there are a half-dozen employees, a number Zwicker said will increase to nine or 10 within a year. With the addition of the third printer, she anticipated that the payroll would grow to 12 or 15 employees. "We are definitely looking to expand," she said.

Family rather than business considerations, Zwicker said, prompted the move from Florida to New Hampshire. She said that she wanted to be closer to her aging parents, who live in Meredith, and their two daughters, who are in college, one in Boston and the other in New York. "Now we don't have to fly to see them," she said.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 02:46

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8th Annual Robbie Mills Memorial 8 Ball Tournament to be contested March 7

LACONIA — Mike Baron of Baron's Billiards and the Cafe Deja Vu Pub Mania Team are teaming up for the 8th Annual Robbie Mills Memorial 8 Ball Tournament, which will be held Saturday, March 7 at the Funky Monkey night club in downtown Laconia.
The tournament, which was started eight seven years ago by Baron as a benefit for the Boys and Girls Club of the Lakes Region, also benefits the NH1 Children's Auction.
''This has become a prestige tournament for players. Some come all the way up from the Seacoast and over from Maine and Vermont to take part. We raised $3,600 last year and are looking for a bigger field than we had last year when 62 people took part,'' says Baron.
He says that those who would like to contribute to the charity event but aren't pool players can help out by sponsoring players for the tournament, which costs only $25. ''There may be some people out there who'd like to play but don't have the $25. And it's all for a good cause.''
Tony Felch of the Cafe Deja Vu Pub Mania Team, who helps run the Tuesday night pool league in Laconia, says that he and other members of the team pitched in a few years ago to help out Baron, who Felch says was running the event virtually single-handedly.
Baron said that he has been putting on tournaments for the Boys and Girls Club ever since the organization was known as the Laconia Teen Center and and believes strongly that the Boys and Girls Club is needed to provide a safe haven ''for the kids who have been falling through the cracks. It really does take a whole village to raise a child.'' The meeting room at the club is named for Robbie Mills.
Baron says that he knows how important having a special place is, citing the example of his own father, who spent time in seven foster homes after losing his father when he was only two years old.
He said that the proceeds are split 50-50 between the club and the Deja Vu team except for the $1,000 contribution from MetroCast Cablevision, where Wendy Mills, mother of the young man for whom the tournament is named, works, which goes entirely to the Boys and Girls Club.
Baron praised the efforts of Sundae Barker, who runs the Lakes Region Pool League, to promote the tournament. ''She has 300 players in that league and always makes sure that they know about the event and have a good turnout.'
Felch says that he remembers Robbie Mills and saw him early on the the day when Mills was murdered for his bicycle near the Messer Street bridge in 1999..
''I couldn't believe that happened in Laconia,'' says Felch, who says that he greatly admires the way Wendy Mills has worked to honor her son's memory.
The event will feature cash prizes, raffles and a live auction which will include a season's Inner Circle Pass at Meadowbrook.
There will be lunch available courtesy of local restaurants with trophies provided by Engraving Awards and Gifts.
For more info or to pre-register contact: Tony Felch 998-1418 or Mike Baron at 528-5001 or the Robbie Mills website at www.robbiemills.org.

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Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 02:41

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Congressman Guinta strikes bipartisan tone during day-long Laconia visit

LACONIA — With a week's vacation after six weeks in Washington, First District Congressman Republican Frank Guinta of Manchester chose to spend yesterday in the city where he joined the guests on "the Advocates," the radio talk show hosted by Niel Young, met privately with city officials, held an invitation-only panel discussion and hosted a town hall-style meeting at Lakes Region Community College.

The town hall meeting drew a sparse crowd of half-a-dozen local Republican loyalists, including two of the 18 Republican State Representatives from Belknap County —George Hurt of Gilford and Frank Tilton of Laconia — along with Alan Glassman of Barnstead, the chairman of the Belknap County Republican Committee, who served as moderator.

In his introductory remarks, Guinta, who returned to Congress in 2014 after being ousted after one term in 2012, struck a more moderate note than the militant tone that marked his first term. He said he wanted to focus on bipartisan issues, noting that despite the headlines in the media 80 percent of the legislation enacted in Congress enjoys support from both sides of the aisle.

"We're here to govern," Guinta said, adding that this requires "a willingness to find common ground." As examples, he offered legislation to restore the 40-hour work week to dissuade employers from trimming hours to escape the Affordable Care Act, and to construct the Keystone pipeline, which he said would generate jobs, promote energy independence and boost exports.

Asked about the future of legislation to restrict abortion that was scuttled when it ran afoul of women in the Republican congressional caucus, Guinta said only that it has been referred to committee and may be amended and put to a vote.

Guinta spoke of the Affordable Care Act — not Obamacare — signaling his temperate tone. When Don Ewing of Meredith declared "Obamacare must be repealed," he replied that instead, congressional committees have been asked to offer amendments and alternatives to the law and that he was "looking forward to a competitive health care system."

At the same time, Guinta touted his bill to repeal the so-called "Cadillac Tax," the coming (2018) 40-percent levy on individual health insurance plans costing more than $10,200 and family health insurance plans costing more than $27,400. He said it would impact municipalities, including Manchester where he served as mayor which would be liable for $5 million or $6 million in taxes, and businesses with more than 50 employees. He feared that the effect in the private sector would be reduced benefits, lay offs and higher employee contributions. "most people are taxed enough," he remarked. "It doesn't seem fair to me."

The crisis in the Middle East, Guinta said, "has gotten worse with the inaction or limited action" of the Obama Administration. He expected Congress to amend the president's request for "authorization for use of military force," which he described as overdue, and said there must be "a real plan" that engages states in the region led and equipped by America.

Guinta insisted the time has come "to put politics aside and put people first" and declared "I never want to be in lock step with a party. I want to be in lock step with the people I represent."

Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 02:15

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Fire claims new-tire shed in downtown Laconia

LACONIA — A two-alarm fire destroyed the roof of a Stratham Tire Company storage shed off Water Street last night.

Fire Chief Ken Erickson said that firefighters were called to the scene just after 6 p.m.

He said smoke was pouring from the roof and just a short time after their arrival, the entire roof became engulfed in flames.

He said firefighters battled strong winds and at one point he said he was concerned for a two-story apartment building that is just across Water Street.

Erickson said it's too soon to know what started the fire but said there are about 600 new tires in the building. The flames were captured on the Laconia Police Department's video system and Erickson will likely review the images today.

He said it appeared the fire damage was contained to the upper part of the shed and the roof, which had collapsed but he had not yet entered the building.

"I reluctantly called for a second-alarm but it is so cold and the wind was blowing everything across the street," he said. "I had to get some help for the teams and rotate them out of the cold."

He said the Stratham Tire showroom and main shop was opened and firefighters used it to stay warm between shifts at the hoses.

At 8:15p.m. firefighters were still streaming water on to the shed. He said it appears the tires may not have burned.

There are three buildings on the property — the actual tire store and automotive repair shop,a metal roofed storage building and the storage shed that burned. The shed is about 10 feet from the storage building and within inches from a tractor-trailer container. The railroad tracks that slice through the downtown area are also immediately adjacent.

Erickson said they were fortunate that the wind was blowing away from the metal-roofed storage shed.

The part of Water Street west of the railroad tracks was still blocked off by police at 8:30 p.m. Water from fighting the blaze was about five to six inches deep in the area and was beginning to freeze.

Crews from the Public Works Department were going to be called to begin moving the water and putting down sand and salt.

Fire companies from all over the Lakes Region assisted at the blaze and covered for Laconia. Other Lakes Regional Mutual Aid firefighters also fought a two-alarm fire in Danbury that was reported about 90 minutes into the Water Street fire.

 

CAPTION: Firefighters standing over to the right continue to pour water onto a tire storage shed that burned last night. The roof of the shed was destroyed and a section of Water Street was closed to all traffic for about four hours.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 February 2015 02:05

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