MANCHESTER, NH – Jane Beaulieu has been around the business block here more than a few times over the past three decades. She has won some and lost some, but her latest venture, The Beanstalk Cafe, never had a fighting chance, she says.
She was barely open four months before having to make the tough decision to close.
A long-term city construction project contributed to its demise, making it impossible to open or build a customer base at the latest incarnation located at Chestnut and Manchester streets. She says she still stops by the restaurant every day and goes inside, mostly just to have a good cry.
It’s where she hoped to put her wholesome, locally-sourced breakfast and lunch selections on the downtown dining map.
But she hasn’t opened her door to customers in three weeks. Her last day in the kitchen was Sept. 16. She made just $50.
Now, two months behind in rent and no cash flow, Beaulieu can’t help but feel a little betrayed.
“Since I opened up, it’s been one thing after another at that location. I made it a nice place, but between the day-to-day things – like a homeless person coming in and destroying the bathroom, and the construction – I’m all set with owning a small business in Manchester,” said Beaulieu on Monday.
Cathleen Connolly, owner of CC’s Consignment Boutique, just two doors down from the Beanstalk Cafe, posted her plans to liquidate the contents of her consignment store and close shop by the end of October. She has been at that location a little less than two years.
“I just wanted to mention to everyone on here before beginning any liquidations in store, that CC’s will unfortunately be closing at the end of October. I greatly appreciate your patronage and partnership in consignment over the past year and a half. But due to circumstances out of our hands (construction) the business must close. If you have any items still in the store and wish to pick them up please call the store 603-668-0090 to set up a time to pick them up. Starting Saturday (10-5pm) there will be an additional 25% off all merchandise, so everything will be 25-45% off! Will follow up with revised hours for the remainder of the month,” Connolly announced Oct. 4 on CC’s Consignment Facebook Page.
On Sept. 30 Connolly posted this 40-second video to her store’s Facebook page, a view of a large backhoe clawing up asphalt and dirt and dropping it into a dump truck, shot from inside her shop, punctuated by a sad-face emoticon.
Beaulieu says she can show on paper the rapid decline of her business once the city construction trucks parked on Chestnut Street.
It’s not that she doesn’t get the importance of the CSO project, part of a 30-year plan to replace the city’s deteriorating underground sewer pipes.
She totally does.
“The funny thing is, I was so involved in the CSO project when they were replacing pipes on the West Side. I know why it needs to be done. I was actually on the committee that worked on getting that project going. But when [Environmental Protection Division Director] Fred O’Neill came into the cafe, I was a crybaby. I told him I was losing my shirt and he said there was nothing the city could do. I think there should be something the city can do. I see the 4 or 6 officers directing traffic out there every day. They’re getting paid by the hour by the city for that detail, and I’m losing my shirt,” Beaulieu said.
McNeil said he feels as bad as anyone about Beaulieu’s decision to close.
“We speak to Jane almost on a daily basis. I emailed with her today, in fact. We’ve tried to accommodate her, but it’s an unfortunate situation,” McNeill said.
McNeill points out that the same construction project made its way across the West Side over the past 15 years, and the city never compensated one business.
“We just can’t set a new precedent by compensating a business when it’s not something we’ve done in the past, or something we can do moving forward,” McNeill said. “We’ve come through all the major business sections on the West Side and, ultimately, they benefited from this. Jane’s building gets flooded in significant rain events, and that’s one reason this is needed,” O’Neill said.
He stressed that the city has been diligent about posting information and sending out mailers to property owners – perhaps another reason why Beaulieu feels burned.
She says the building owner did not inform her and her business partner, Fred Fricker, that work was about to start when she signed the lease in May to begin renovating.
“That’s another problem. I don’t even know person who owns the building. We’ve asked to meet with the building owner, but that hasn’t happened. The property manager didn’t notify us – we’ve consulted with attorneys. Something needs to give. We need to get something from someone. I feel they should have notified us the road would be closed. I think it’s an oversight on their part, but they needed to do that, and we’re going to do something about it,” Beaulieu said.
“I would think that’s a valid point, since we mailed information to the property owners. That would be a communication issue between owner and tenant,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said Beaulieu was one of six members of the public who attended a Sept. 26 informational meeting on the Chestnut Street construction, along with Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long, a representative of the Mayor’s office and O’Neill’s boss, Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard.
“We’ve never had this situation before. Jane was just opening up that restaurant and it was unfortunate timing. The consignment shop has been there a year and a half or so. We know a lot of businesses just don’t succeed. Does it negatively impact businesses? Yes. Does construction contribute to it, yes – no doubt about it,” O’Neill said.
Bealieu said maybe if she could get her landlord to forgive the two months of back rent she owes she will have enough to restock her kitchen and give it another go.
“I go in there and I cry like a baby, then I leave and I say to myself, no I’m done. It’s all really kind of bizarre. I’m 60 years old, and I guess I this is just another six months of my life I will chalk up to experience,” Beaulieu says.