LACONIA — A storied property at Weirs Beach is going to be given a new chapter this year.
In October, Leigh and Ryan Cardella purchased the building and land at 21 Weeks Street, commonly known as the Winnipesaukee Marketplace, from the Ames brothers. The new owners are in the process of having the property renovated to accommodate a restaurant, residential space, and a space for another commercial enterprise yet to be determined.
Ryan Cardella, one of the owners of East Coast Flightcraft of New England, said he and his wife saw potential in the property to be part of the improvement taking place at other Weirs Beach properties. For example, Flightcraft has been improving the Winnipesaukee Pier, which the boat dealer purchased about three years ago.
The building at 21 Weeks Street was built in 1880 as a hospitality destination for visitors who came to the lake via the railroad. First known as the “Lakeside House” and then the “Lakeside Hotel,” Cardella said, “It was wild how big it was back in the day, the Ritz Carlton of The Weirs… It used to be a wild spot, hopefully we can bring back a little bit of life to it.”
In recent history, the property was the site of an Italian-American restaurant, an ice cream scoop shop, and a venue for live music.
Cardella said he and Leigh have a vision for mixed use of the property. The top three stories of the four-story building will be used for residential purposes, and the northern half of the 0.84-acre parcel will be available for another entrepreneur to operate. The first floor of the building is currently being renovated to hold a kitchen and restaurant, one which will be a bit of a departure from the usual Weirs Beach food and drink scene.
“We had a lot of local restaurateurs reach out to us, but we wanted something different, a different vibe,” Cardella said. He and Leigh connected with a chef currently working out of Boston, and they’ve come up with a concept for a restaurant called “Salida,” Spanish for “exit” or “gateway.” He hopes it will offer an escape from the boardwalk bustle, offering a menu of tapas items "inspired by Latin and Spanish fare," and tequila-centric craft cocktails. He said they hope Salida to be serving by June 12, which is when Laconia Motorcycle Week will kick off.
Their vision for the residential space and other commercial use are less specific.
“The Weirs is evolving so fast, it’s hard to see what direction to go in,” Cardella said. They are focusing on getting the restaurant going and general rehabilitation of the rest of the building, and will then look to see what uses would best complement, rather than compete with, existing uses.
Salida will start as a seasonal operation, though Cardella said he expects that Weirs Beach will soon transition to a year-round destination.
“We have to wait for everything else to come and catch up,” he said.
As owner of the Winnipesaukee Pier, East Coast Flightcraft was in a good position to gauge 2020 activity levels. Cardella said it was a banner year for Weirs Beach. Foot traffic was up by more than a third, and their boat gas pumps recorded “unheard of” numbers, he said. Analysis of credit card data showed that much of the increase in traffic was due to visitors from other Northeastern states, and from people who hadn’t previously been Lakes Region visitors.
They likely came to Winnipesaukee because the pandemic prevented them from taking a vacation farther away, and Cardella expects that many of them will return.
“We’re seeing them repeating,” he said. “We think we’re going to get more and more people up here who never came here before.”
“We want to see the area grow and go,” Cardella said. “I think The Weirs is going to be one of the hottest spots on the lake.”
The Cardellas formed Weirs Beach Holdings LLC to purchase the property. They paid $250,000 for the building and land. The city appraised the value of the property at $239,000.