March 2, 2011

Another door closes in Derry

Marc Parent takes the last of the garland and wreaths from Country Cupboard, one
of the last purchases made before the store closed its doors for the last time Monday.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- After 22 years anchoring a busy stretch of retail real estate on Crystal Avenue, the Cupboard is bare — for the most part. Monday was the final day of business for Country Cupboard gift store, which sold popular brand-name items including Vera Bradley quilted bags, Crabtree & Evelyn scented lotions and Yankee Candles, interspersed among collections of jewelry, knickknacks and home decor items that lined its shelves.
Yesterday a few customers were drawn in to the parking lot by the “70 percent off” signboard, set off with a “for sale” sign, only to find the door locked and the lights off inside the store.
 Marc Parent of Derry pulled up in his pickup truck at just about 4 p.m.

“I was here Friday and bought a number of items — we got some of those nice Willow Tree figurines,” said Parent. “I also bought the Christmas wreaths and the garland that are hanging out here. They said I could just come by and get it anytime after Monday.”
Just before Christmas, store owner Kelly Forenson said sales were down, and that her business was not recovering quickly enough from the recession. Even during what should have been the height of her busy season, Forenson said foot traffic into the store was slow.
Parent said yesterday that over the years he was a fairly regular customer of the country store — he said he was a fan of the country decor featured at the store.
“It’s a sign of the times,” said Parent, of the closure. He said he hopes another interesting
 shop comes along to fill the space sooner than later.
“Maybe some kind of coffee shop — although we have a few of those already — but something that will bring people in,” Parent said. “I’d hate to see a car dealer or something like that. They have some parking here, which is missing from the downtown. It would make a nice location for another business.”
He further lamented the news that longtime candy shop, Priscilla’s Candies, which has for years rented space adjacent to Moo’s Place ice cream just up the road from Country Cupboard, is calling it quits.
“They’re leaving after Easter,” said Parent.
Priscilla’s employee Jeannie Friedberg confirmed the news — after 72 years in the candy business, the parent company in Lawrence, Mass., is shutting down, its owners retiring.
“We look bare right now, but by April 1 this place will be filled with Easter candy — it will be the last big push before we’re done,” said Friedberg. She said there’s always a chance someone may want to step up and take over the business, but more than likely it will just be another inevitable chapter in a bygone era for this town, once it’s all said and done.
“Priscilla’s was a two-man operation. It’s not like Lindt, where they have lots of workers and machinery to turn out the candy. Everything was done by hand. So after all these years, it was just time; they are ready to retire,” said Freidberg of owners Norm and Harriet Cooper.
Parent said it’s important for the town to bring in retail businesses to help the existing businesses stay afloat.
“I was talking to one of the owners over at the Halligan Tavern, and he was saying he hopes another restaurant moves into where the Depot
 Steakhouse was — he said he needs the competition to bring people into the downtown,” Parent said.
The popular steak house close abruptly in August of 2010. It remains unoccupied.
“I really can’t figure out what the problem is. It’s not like Derry’s a high-crime town, or plagued with problems like graffiti. It’s seems like a good place to be, for a business,” said Parent, as he began unhooking the garland from the front of the farmer’s porch railing. He gathered it up into a bunch, and then reached up for two large Christmas wreaths hanging on the building, before loading them in the back of his pickup.
“I got these for 10 dollars — I usually weave them every year out of real greens, but now I won’t have to do that anymore,” Parent said. “I’m glad to have them, but it’s a shame the store had to close.”

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