Upper Valley sees first business casualties of pandemic

HANOVER, N.H. (WCAX) The economic shutdown is taking its toll on small and big stores alike. Some have already gone out of business and others are just trying to hang on. Adam Sullivan reports from the Upper Valley, a region that was thriving before the pandemic.

Two small businesses in downtown Hanover recently announced that they will not be reopening and area business leaders fear that more could be coming.

"This has been a ghost town for the last three months," said Suzy Psomas, as she sipped on an ice coffee from Starbucks, where a "we're open" sign hangs out front. The Hanover resident sits in front of what used to be Morano Gelato, a local hot spot that has closed its door permanently. "Very sad. It was a real gathering place especially after movies and events at The Hop."

Around the corner, AroMed Essentials is also not coming back. Across the street more retail space is also for lease. From Hanover's quaint downtown to the bustling shopping plazas of West Lebanon, there are more signs of the economic downturn. Several stores that have yet to reopen, their fate still unknown.

"We are limping along," said Jill Butler, who owns a small boutique in Hanover. She says the future of her business could be a referendum on what residents want their communities to look like. "Do we want to have little stores and restaurants that make our town lovely?" she said.

Murphy's on the Green re-opened this week. It's been in Hanover for decades. "I think that the Main Street that innovates will win. Those that don't will slip," said the restaurant's Nigel Leeming.

"Of course our hospitality industry has just been decimated by this. Lodging is not yet allowed to reopen," said Tracy Hutchins witth the Upper Valley Business Alliance. She say stimulus funds like PPP are helping to keep businesses afloat. Millions more will soon be available to New Hampshire businesses through the Main Street Relief Fund. "I think a lot of it is going to depend on consumer confidence and how confident people are going out to eat or going shopping."

Shoppers like Psomas say they are happy to see the street beginning to come alive again. "I think you are seeing a lot more people out and about and going in. I would hope that there would be a nice slow transition," she said.

The deadline for New Hampshire Business to pre-qualify for the Main Street Relief fund is this Friday May 29th. Any business that needs help navigating that process is encouraged to call the Upper Valley Business Alliance.