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Main Street Laconia landmark looking for new owner

Union Leader Correspondent

April 12. 2018 10:41PM
The former Bloom's Variety store, home to the Laconia Antique Center, is for sale. (Bea Lewis/Union leader correspondent)

LACONIA — Still bullish on the future of downtown Laconia, Charlie St. Clair confirmed that he has put the Laconia Antique Center at the corner of Main and Hanover Street on the market.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for someone with energy and money,” said St. Clair, who founded the business nine years ago.

“I’m not happy to sell it, but reality is reality. I wish days were 48 hours long then I could do it,” said St. Clair, explaining that his focus remains on Motorcycle Week. He is executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, a position he has held since 1991.

The real estate and the antique business that rents space to dealers to sell their wares is listed with Berkshire Hathaway Real Estate at an asking price of $735,000.

Constructed in 1950, the nearly 23,000-square-foot building was initially home to Landau’s Variety and then J.J. Newberry’s that closed in 1996 after the parent company of the national five and dime chain filed for bankruptcy.

The store’s former manager, the late Gary Bloom and his wife, Marty, of Belmont, bought the property and operated it until they retired in 2008.

In January 2011, the Laconia Antique Center moved into the building with a lease purchase agreement. The business had opened in a 7,800-square-foot building across the street the year before.

While St. Clair is hopeful that the new owner will continue to run the business that he launched nine years ago, he said the building has some unique features that may lend itself to another use.

The initial design was for a multi-story building and called for the use of substantial steel beams.

The structural steel would support the addition of several stories.

The store retains some of its original features, including a retro-style lunch counter and soda fountain that is now open on weekends.

“People are flabbergasted when they see it,” St. Clair said, adding that when he served in the past as the cook, patrons passing through would often recount their memories of having a frappe at a soda fountain or a grilled hot dog at a lunch counter in a store in their own hometowns.

As a resident of the city, St. Clair said he is pleased the Colonial Theatre is being restored and eyes the project as being a magnet to draw people downtown, whether to enjoy a concert or to see a movie.

His 601 Main St. building abuts the Colonial.

One of the many things he enjoys about the Laconia Antique Center is talking with customers and observing their reactions

“For some people it’s a walk down memory lane,” said St. Clair, who was recently elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives representing Laconia and Belmont.

Other people, he’s discovered, comment that it’s refreshing to find items in the store not made in China that have good craftsmanship.

He concedes the business does have one peril, feeding his desire to collect things. He especially enjoys hunting for old copies of Life magazine.

“When you read them, people are complaining about the same things today,” he said.

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