Pappas talks with Hanover Street businesses about SBA, pandemic and other topics

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Chris Pappas listens to Anthony Coy of Beeze Tees. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Last week, U.S. Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH-01) and representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) took a tour of three businesses on Hanover Street to discuss the state of small business in Manchester and check in to see how further assistance can be provided in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Pappas’ Manchester office at the corner of Hanover and Elm is located just a few hundred feet away from all three stores on the tour, which came to their respective locations due to their proximity to the Palace Theatre, within what is better known as the Theatre Block.

As a lifelong Manchester resident, Pappas recalls a time when the Theatre Block and all of downtown Manchester had a very different feel than today. He also believes that help from the SBA and other federal assistance has played a role in revitalizing the area and keeping it running during the pandemic.

“This was a ghost town, downtown. You didn’t a lot of pedestrian traffic or vehicular traffic on Elm Street. Storefronts were dilapidated and rundown, the millyard didn’t have a lot of tenants, so this has been an effort over the last three decades really to revitalize the center city in Manchester and Manchester has come a long way,” said Pappas. “We’ve got great potential, a lot of great new businesses and new organizations in the city and the more we can people to want to live, work and shop in this district, the stronger the city is going to be all across the board.”

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Chris Pappas talks with Allyse Hanlon of Soul and Shadow Emporium. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

The first two stops on the tour, Soul and Shadow Emporium and Beeze Tees, began on Main Street in Keene and opened new branches in the Theatre Block in recent years.

Both Beeze Tees Account Manager Anthony Coy and Soul and Shadow Emporium Store Manager Allyse Hanlon believe that there is more pedestrian customer traffic in downtown Keene than in downtown Manchester, but for different reasons.

For Hanlon, she has seen a slowdown due in part to the pandemic and partly due what she says is an exodus of people from the city compared to colder months.

“I’m excited for fall and the Palace and local business and restaurants to pick up and see what Manchester is building outside the pandemic,” she said. “There have been a lot of changes with restaurants and businesses closing and reopening and people not wanting to go out, so it’s good to see people coming back.”

The Beeze Tees location in Keene is about two blocks south of the split and nearly adjacent Soul Emporium and Shadown Emporium locations in Keene and approximately two blocks north of Keene State College. That college traffic is a major difference between the two cities, as is what he sees as more downtown-related events in the Elm City and the Queen City’s problem with homelessness.

“I think (homelessness) might deter people from coming downtown out of safety concerns,” he said. “I don’t see that problem in Keene.”

Still, Coy says that there is plenty of business on Hanover Street.

“There’s a lot going on right here. We get the people spill over from Elm Street, we get people who work on Hanover and come in during their lunch and pop in and it’s very busy,” he said. “That’s why we came to this block. Supposedly this is the busiest block in downtown Manchester.”

Both Hanlon and Coy appreciated Pappas’ visit, with Coy adding that without Paycheck Protection Program assistance during the height of the pandemic, Beeze Tees likely would have gone out of business forever and that another mandatory shutdown without attached government support would still be fatal to the company.

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Grace Burr and Chris Pappas talk on Sept. 15, 2021. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Grace Burr, owner of Creative Framing Solutions just a few hundred feet west in the old Jupiter Hall location, echoed that another mandatory shutdown without assistance of some kind would be difficult to overcome.

Burr came to New Hampshire seven years ago from Gloucester, Mass. when the storefront she had been renting was turned into housing. At first, she operated out of office space for select clientele, but eventually returned to a retail-style business after word-of-mouth about her work spread.

She hopes that the lessons learned during the pandemic can help prevent any future mandatory shutdowns, even preferring vaccine mandates, mandatory mask requirements or other measures if the pandemic grows again to the point where another shutdown is considered.

Burr struggled through the beginning of the pandemic, but eventually received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. She still feels the impact of the early days of the pandemic, with supply chains still not fully recovered as international trade continues to readjust.

Beyond the pandemic, she also awaits the fate of her lease. A day after the tour, the Manchester Planning Board approved site plan application requests to adjust the lot line of the five-story building where her business resides and transform the top four floors into residential space, with a possible restaurant rumored to be coming in at the corner of the first floor of the building.

She says that being forced to move again like the had to in Gloucester would be just as devastating as the early days of the pandemic were for her business, and emotionally devastating as well given the ties she has built in what has become her business’ new home.

“One thing I love about Manchester is seeing the resilience of people, the sense of new businesses and the community among business owners here,” she said. “I’ve had great support. My neighbors have been not just neighbors but business colleagues and friends, which is nice. We’ve all sort of melted together which is kind of a support system.”

“Unlike Gloucester, Manchester is a year-round place. I love the diversity, the restaurants, the people, the culture. it’s not just a concrete jungle like Boston. It’s a walkable city with a lot of little special places and I’m privileged to be here,” she added.

About this Author

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.