MANCHESTER, NH – For more than 100 years Still’s Tractor and Nursery has anchored the intersection of Mammoth and Candia roads. Generations of Manchester farmers, gardeners, landscapers. and residents were regular customers.
In 1879, when Charles P. Still arrived in Manchester to work on the farm of Aaron Marshall, the intersection of Mammoth and Candia was mostly farmland. After a few years, Charles Still became the farm’s owner and he settled in with his wife Etta and their daughter, Rose.
The location at the crossroads of the main road to Boston and the road to Massabesic Lake made it an ideal location for commerce. Still’s became the place to get hay and feed for horses and other farm animals. Charles P. Still also worked as a stonemason.
How does a family business survive for five generations? By being adaptable.
Today, instead of selling hay, they specialize in selling and repairing lawnmowers and other landscaping equipment. And while the spot on Mammoth Road was a great location for selling hay in 1900, the amount of traffic and tight parking lot made it difficult for their landscaper customers to maneuver in and out of the place.
Since 2007 Still’s has been part of Turf Depot. That year they partnered with Granz Power Equipment of Salem to form the new company, which currently has stores in Hooksett, Salem, Londonderry and Portsmouth. Members of the Still family continue to play a major role in running the business.
Last year, they transitioned most of their business from Mammoth Road to the Hooksett store.
Joe Chevalier, who has been married to Charles P. Still’s great-great-granddaughter Laurie since 1969, says that the decision was not made lightly, but as landscaping equipment has gotten bigger and longer they simply needed more room. The repair shop on Mammoth Road is still in use, but mostly for overflow from other locations and there is no longer direct access for customers. He encourages folks to call for service.
“We have customers who have been with us for generations and the move shouldn’t change that. We have a great pick-up and delivery service,” Chevalier said.
“We rehabbed a building that had been a printing press and an Elks Club. Now we have plenty of room for parking and our showroom, and it is only 5 minutes away from our old place. We even had room to put in a little coffee shop” he added
The move to Hooksett isn’t the first time that the business has shifted gears over the last century. After World War I Charles P. Still and his grandson, Charles Douglas Still, known as Charlie, began the shift from agriculture to gardening and landscaping.
Charlie Still was born in 1893 to Rose Still Bean, Charles P. and Etta’s daughter. In 1898 Rose died and Charles and Etta adopted young Charles Douglas and gave him the Still surname.
As a young man Charlie Still worked intermittently in the Amoskeag Mills and enlisted in the Army when World War I broke out. When he returned he married and settled down to start a family. His obituary described him as being in the nursery business since 1922.
The 1936 City Directory lists:
(Charles D. Still) nurseryman, evergreen shrubs (perennials) landscape construction
While Still’s continued to sell hay and feed and agricultural equipment, farms in the area were gradually disappearing and being replaced by residential neighborhoods. The post-World War II building boom saw hundreds of homes constructed in the area. Still’s expanded to provide landscaping materials for builders and new homeowners. Beyond the small lot on Mammoth Road, Still’s grew shrubs on several acres off Cohas Ave.
In 1947 the business became Still’s Tractor and Nursery, acknowledging their growing business as a regional retailer of tractors and farming equipment. Around this time Don Still, who represented the next generation, returned from serving in the Army during World War II and joined the business.
Charlie remained active until he died in 1973. In fact, when Joe Chevalier returned from a stint in the U.S. Air Force in 1971, it was Charlie Still who hired him as a part-time worker while he attended New Hampshire College, now SNHU. “He never let his age hold him back,” said Chevalier.
Charlie passed away in 1973 and his wife Janet and son Don took over the business. Janet also ran the Corner Cupboard Gift Shop. When Chevalier graduated from college he decided to stay on at Still’s. “I liked what I was doing and saw that there was a lot of opportunity to grow the business”.
Chevalier says he was never much of a plant guy so he chose to focus on the power equipment side of the business. In 1976 they changed the name to Still’s Power Equipment and became a dealer for Ariens, Snapper, Stihl and Simplicity equipment. Today they sell and repair lawnmowers of all sizes, chainsaws, hedge clippers, snowblowers, and all manner of outdoor power equipment.
Perry Chaloge, who manages the Hooksett Turf Depot started working at Still’s in the 1980s. He remembers those days fondly. “Dot Puchasz lived in the apartment upstairs and she would call down to us when she had a fresh batch of cookies.”
While he has fond memories of the Mammoth Road place, he appreciates the additional space at the Hooksett location. “We have plenty of room for our customers coming in with their landscaping equipment and we have room to do fun things like our monthly car show,” Chaloge said. The next one is on August 17 from 5 to 8 p.m.
After 50 years, Joe Chevalier still goes in to work every day at the main Turf Depot store in Salem. He marvels at how the business continues to change. “Today we are selling second-generation battery-operated mowers and in a few years we can expect to see robots mowing lawns and roadsides.”
As for the future, Chevalier’s daughter, Kelly True, is poised to step up when he retires. She is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles P. Still and would be the 6th generation to run the business. Her son Austin also works there part-time and may one day be the 7th generation.