A group with much business talent addressed dozens of people at the Tannery Marketplace on Friday. Pictured are, from left to right, Ray Cloutier, owner of the tannery property; Magda Randall, who operates the Polish Princess Bakery in Lancaster; John Lenzini, Chief Brewing Officer at Schilling Beer Company in Littleton's river district; floral designer Emily Herzig; Katie Mros, who co-owns Sandwich Tech, which recently moved from Littleton to Lancaster; and, Ben Southworth of Garland Mill Timberframes, based in Lancaster, a regional builder of high efficiency homes. (Photo by Darin Wipperman) (click for larger version)
May 04, 2016LITTLETON — With much experience operating North Country businesses, six individuals provided ideas and inspiration to a large group of people on the river level of the Tannery Marketplace on Friday afternoon. The entrepreneurs offered thoughts on a range of topics, including the reasons why they wanted to be in northern New Hampshire.
The event was a collaboration between the Northern Forest Center and Ray Cloutier, who has owned the tannery property for more than 20 years.
Cloutier was the first business owner to provide his thoughts to the group. He noted how the property he now owns hosted the largest employer in Littleton for nearly a century.
After hard times with the closure of the Saranac Glove Company, the property was subdivided and neglected. Cloutier said he arrived at the site in 1995 with "a shovel, a pry bar, and a broom."
For 17 years, ADMAC Salvage provided the means for Cloutier and his wife Sarah to make improvements to the site. Now, "This building offers all kinds of great opportunities," Cloutier said.
With 22 tenants and more than 40 jobs, the Tannery Marketplace still has great potential. Cloutier is working to fill the river level space with additional business activity.
"We're ready to go to the next step," Cloutier concluded, about the large square footage he hopes to fill.
Since early this year, Emily Herzig has rented space in the tannery building. She operates a floral studio that provides highly respected services for weddings and other events around the region.
With 12 years of business experience in Littleton, Herzig used one sentence to explain the reason for her location.
"I just love what this area has to offer," Herzig said.
"My family is here," she continued, which was a big motivator for other speakers to remain in the North Country.
Herzig said her flexible hours are a great way to be there for her two children.
"I really wouldn't choose to do my business anywhere else," she concluded.
Ben Southworth of Garland Mill Timberframes is another businessman who sees the region as a great place to raise a family. Along with his cousin Dana, Southworth wanted to continue the family business.
After traveling for several years, Southworth came back "because we really love this area."
Southworth said the region needs "a resilient fabric" of high quality jobs. "That is what this community and all communities need," he added.
Katie Mros then discussed how Sandwich Tech, the business she operates with Matt Michaud, manufactures skis and snowboards. Originally making winter sports hardware in their Littleton home, Sandwich Tech moved to Lancaster over the winter.
"We grew too big for our home-based business," Mros said.
Again, the business owners made a location decision based on the desire to be closer to family. Respectively, Mros and Michaud have relatives in New York and Groveton.
With a busy workshop, Sandwich Tech hopes to hire more people, and the new space in Lancaster will facilitate that expansion.
Magda Randall is another entrepreneur with family as a driver for her business location. She finds the North Country "a great place to raise kids."
Originally from Poland, Randall said she has always been "fascinated with the food culture," which led to her interest in baking and creating Polish Princess Bakery.
Now with a shop on Lancaster's Main Street, Randall started out baking bread in her home.
"We have great support from the local community," Randall said to the Tannery Marketplace crowd on Friday. She hopes to see further business expansion because of the strong need for jobs, as well as residents' interest in helping out local businesses.
John Lenzini is another business leader with experience as a traveller. He spent several years in Europe, where he discovered his interest in teaching. With his academic background in chemistry and fascination with culture, Lenzini began home brewing after moving from Austria to take a teaching position at St. Johnsbury Academy in 2006.
Along with his long-time friend Jeff Cozzens, Lenzini is now living a dream as the head brewer at Schilling Beer Company, a thriving stop for pizza and beer lovers in Littleton's river district.
Finding the Grist Mill building nearly four years ago, "We built our business plan around that space," Lenzini said. He also discussed Littleton's many qualities that offer employees "an excellent way of life."
Schilling produces about 850 barrels of beer annually, Lenzini said. He sees the town as a hub of activity with much growth potential.
Rob Riley, the President of the Concord-based Northern Forest Center, said the organization works to promote strong communities across four states. He was very happy to help provide a forum for diverse businesses to have a discussion with others.
Although promoting the forest products industry is a goal of the Center, Riley noted his interest goes well beyond that. As he said, "It takes more than a forest economy to make a community."