HOOKSETT — Months after the historic Robie’s Country Store closed its doors, the nonprofit that owns the building has found a new operator who has plans to reopen the store mid-February.
Tom Walsh is overseeing a small crew of workers who are fixing up the store, which he said is merely upkeep and not part of a grand design to change the store.
“We will continue to serve food, but also we will have some Robie’s clothing, antiques and I plan on bringing back basic groceries to the store,” Walsh said.
Robie’s, which is on the state and national historic registers, has been a regular stop of politicians both on the local and national campaign trail. Walsh, who is also a state legislator representing Hooksett and a member of the planning board, said that Robie’s presented a perfect opportunity for him both as a businessman and someone who loves Hooksett.
“I remember coming to Robie’s as a kid. It is a very important part of this town and it is important that it remains open. While I can’t guarantee 100 years of operation like the Robie family, I can say that I want to be here hopefully for the next 20 years,” Walsh said.
Don Riley, of the Robie’s Country Store Historic Preservation Corp., said that after previous operator Debbie Chouinard closed in September, the Preservation Corp, which has owned the building since purchasing it from the Robie family in 2000, received a dozen inquiries about keeping the historic store open.
“Then we asked for business plans, and only three people produced them. We then met with all three of them for over an hour, and after some discussion we determined that Tom’s proposal was the best fit for the store, that his vision was closest to our vision,” Riley said.
Walsh, who currently operates his own carpentry business, said he has been interested in opening a diner in Hooksett for years, and that once he found out Robie’s was available he became determined to take it over.
“I think there is a lot of potential here,” Walsh said.
Riley agreed, adding that the opening of a Bass Pro Shop in town will make Robie’s a much more visible business in the future.
“This is going to become a much more active corridor with the Bass Pro,” Walsh said.
To take advantage of the expected increase in traffic, Walsh said he is going to introduce pre-made food such as breakfast and lunch sandwiches and salads.
“This way people can just come in, grab their lunch and be on their way, so if they want to be in and out they can. But we will still have traditional diner food that you can order as well,” Walsh said.
Walsh, who said that he plans to hire six employees to run the store, said he still plans being at the store regularly once it opens.
“Not just to make sure everything is running great, but also because I love this place, I love everything about it,” Walsh said.