Downtown Hanover sees additional business closures
Hanover restaurant Orient Chinese and Japanese closed suddenly this week after it was discovered that the restaurant was pouring grease into a Hanover storm drain, according to Hanover town manager Julia Griffin.
“The town had repeated incidents with the operators of Orient, which involved their pouring large quantities of grease directly into our storm drain inlet behind the building,” Griffin said.
Griffin added that the management of the restaurant was “untruthful” after being confronted about the matter by town officials and that the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services became involved. After repeated offenses, the act was finally caught on video by a camera installed by the Six South Street Hotel at the request of the town.
The water in the storm drain goes directly to the river, and contaminating the water may constitute a felony, Griffin said.
Griffin added that Orient also made “repeated New Hampshire food code violations.”
Even before Orient was caught pouring grease, the establishment had faced challenges. Unlike its neighbor Base Camp Cafe, which has “spotlessly clean kitchens” and “found its niche in the restaurant marketplace,” Orient struggled to compete, Griffin said. Its subterranean location added difficulty in drawing business as it was not visible from the street.
“We have decided to part company on a mutually friendly basis” property owner Jim Rubens said, declining to comment on the alleged food safety or environmental violations. “We are very happy to have suggestions from students who are obviously a major part of the business in downtown Hanover.”
The closure of Orient was preceded by the announcement that Zimmermanns The North Face will close at the end of June when its lease expires. In recent months, downtown Hanover has seen a number of changes, including the closures of the Dartmouth Bookstore, the Canoe Club restaurant, and clothing stores Folk and Rambler’s Way.
However, according to Griffin, new businesses will soon be opening in the downtown area. The front area of the space that used to house the Dartmouth Bookstore will be divided into two parts facing Main Street and will house two new clothing retailers. In the rear of the Dartmouth Bookstore space, Allie Levy ’11 will open Still North Books, which will combine a small independent bookstore with a wine bar. Its entrance will be on Allen Street.
The Canoe Club space remains vacant, and Griffin said that it is difficult to fill at the moment, as there is construction on the rear of the building. However, she noted that there is some interest in the space from several potential tenants.
The reason for the closure of Zimmermans The North Face, which occupies a space in a building owned by the College, was less unusual than that of Orient: The store has faced declining sales in recent years, according to the store’s manager Bill Boyle. As customers more frequently rely on online shopping instead of brick-and-mortar stores, the store struggled to compete with online The North Face sales and sites like Amazon. Griffin describes this phenomenon, felt in other Hanover businesses, as the ‘Amazonization’ of downtown Hanover.
Another factor that contributed to declining sales at the store, according to Boyle, was “changing taste,” as customers increasingly favor brands like Patagonia and Canada Goose. Boyle said that the store showed a “failure to adapt” to this trend. Although the store is not owned by The North Face, it was required to only sell the brand, according to Boyle.
High rental prices in Hanover have challenged Zimmermanns The North Face, as well as other businesses in town.
“[Hanover is] almost not affordable if you are a small retail store,” said Annemarie Schmidt, owner of European Face and Body Studio.
Kayla Thibodeau, manager of retail stores for Farmhouse Pottery, noted that rent prices in Hanover are more expensive than in other similar towns like Woodstock, VT.
Boyle also said that the small market in Hanover and the surrounding towns could not financially sustain Zimmermanns The North Face.
“How many times does someone need a new fleece?” he said, highlighting how The North Face products are not the kind of products that customers buy frequently.
Boyle added that sales in the summer have declined dramatically in recent years, citing a reduction in visitors to Hanover that he attributed to a decreasing popularity of summer camps.
In the future, Griffin said she thinks that stores must shift their approaches to business in Hanover.
“The current buzzword is ‘curated products,’” Griffin said. “You really need to find a new age of retailers who are choosing a broader range of products and curating the products in a really interesting way. You get the sort of shopping experience you can’t get online.”
Hanover business owners expressed hope that existing businesses — as well as new ones set to open in town — will succeed. Griffin noted that this retail environment is part of the town and the College’s charm.
“Dartmouth wants a quaint charming Hanover downtown because it’s a really good recruitment tool for them,” she said. “However, the College has to be involved in supporting that downtown. It can’t survive by itself.”
Peter Charalambous contributed reporting.