By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
GILMANTON — Things in the Four Corners nearly returned to normal yesterday when the Corner Slice opened for business at 11 a.m. In two weeks when the gas pumps are operating, it'll be the happening place to be in town.
Three years in the planning stages, Henry and Rachael Vigeant are now offering pizza, subs, a three-generation recipe for Henry's "famous" chicken tenders, and a chicken Parmesan that is prepared to order.
Vigeant has owned three restaurants in the past — one in Seabrook, one in South Boston and one in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He moved his family to Gilmanton about four years ago.
"I wanted a farm and found a beautiful piece of land," he said. "I love it here."
"I grew up in Lowell and it's very congested," he said. "I don't want to go back to that."
For the better part of the past 40 years, the Corner Slice building was where people in the Four Corners either met or ran into their neighbors. Before the Vigeants, four different businesses operated there with the owners before them operating a deli.
Yesterday, the first day the Corner Slice was open, was just like old times. One gentleman ate a pizza and chatted with the couple at the table next to him. A father and son came in for a cold drink and a sandwich, and one family ran into a second family in town and caught up on the summer's goings on.
Vigeant said the Corner Slice will also feature "the cheapest super unleaded gas" for miles around.
"Super" will be their draw, saying he hopes to attract snowmobilers, people who boat and others who want or need to use high octane super fuel. "I want to be about 40 cents lower than the rest," he said.
He said he is about two weeks away from having finishing his classes on gas station management.
Vigeant said he spent the better part of three years trying to get the Corner Slice open and much of it was trying to identify the bank that actually owned the property and the person who had owned it.
Once that was accomplished, he said a friend bought the building and Vigeant is leasing it from him.
His next steps were state and local hurdles including identifying what kind of septic system he had.
"I knew where it was but I didn't know what it was," he said, adding there were no approval plans in the state archives.
He said the former owner found a piece of paper from 1977 regarding the septic system but it appears the four previous owners ran it for 40 years without any state permitting.
With the piece of paper, he had the information about his septic system and once he designed a new one to be on file in the event that the existing one failed.
He said the Zoning Board of Adjustments was probably the most frustrating hurdle because they told him he needed a change-of-use from convenience store to restaurant.
Vigeant said the prior use included a deli, cigarettes, convenience store and gas. His is deli and gas. He is approved for 23 seats and has 19 in there now, many of them replicas of old metal tractor seats.
"I just dropped two things and now they say I'm a restaurant," he said, adding that they told him that one seat makes a restaurant but a Gilmanton Iron Works store has eat-in capacity but they aren't classified a restaurant.
He said that he doesn't want to belittle them but wished the rules were the same for all.
"I've had three restaurants and this one has been more of a regulatory nightmare than all three of the others combined," he said.
The Corner Slice is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The Corner Slice opened to eager customers Thursday in the old convenience store at the Four Corners in Gilmanton. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)
Old tractor seats give the new store a rustic look. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)
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