Seniors see a changing landscape in Hanover and at the College

As the Class of 2021 progressed through their four undergraduate years, they witnessed significant closures, openings and construction in the Hanover area.

by Andrew Sasser | 6/12/21 4:40am

stillnorth-nataliedameron
by Natalie Dameron / The Dartmouth Staff

This article is featured in the 2021 Commencement special issue.

Since the Class of 2021’s arrival on campus in the fall of 2017, both the College and Hanover have undergone a significant transformation, with construction projects, renovations and business closures and openings changing the landscape of both the downtown and of campus. 

The last four years have seen the construction of the new Center for Engineering and Computer Science building at the west end of campus, slated to open in fall 2021, as well as multi-million dollar ongoing renovations of Dartmouth, Thornton and Reed Halls. Other recent projects include renovations to Anonymous Hall, a building at the north end of campus that is home to the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies and the College’s undergraduate linguistics program, and the renovation of the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. 

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that over the past ten years, the “face of Hanover,” both on Dartmouth’s campus and in the downtown area, has changed significantly. She noted that while there was a “brief hiatus” in campus construction in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, there has been a lot of construction around campus ever since.

“The last decade and the last four years have also seen the departure of a number of businesses,” Griffin said. “Students from the Class of 2011 who might return to campus would be shocked to see that businesses like the Dartmouth Bookstore and Canoe Club are long gone.”

Still North Books & Bar and My Brigadeiro both occupy the space formerly filled by the Dartmouth Bookstore, which shut its doors in 2018. Still North owner Allie Levy ’11 said that while Hanover looks “architecturally the same” as it did 10 years ago, businesses have seen “a lot of turnover.” She added that some “standout” businesses during her time at Dartmouth — such as Everything But Anchovies, a pizza shop and long-time Hanover staple often referred to as EBAs — have since shut down.

In recent years, some retailers — such as the clothing stores Zimmerman’s and Rambler’s Way,  bookstore Wheelock Books, and Eastman’s Pharmacy — have all gone out of business. Within the last year, numerous Hanover restaurants, including Salt Hill Pub, The Skinny Pancake and Morano Gelato, have also closed permanently. Griffin added that while the COVID-19 had influenced their decisions to close, all three restaurants were “struggling” financially prior to the pandemic.

“It was really sad to see a lot of those Hanover mainstays leave,” Griffin said. “However, with the pandemic nearing an end, the commercial real estate market is really popping right now, and a lot of new restaurants have been getting ready to move into town."

Lou’s Restaurant manager Craig Morley said that the last year has had a “big impact” on Hanover restaurants, as many have “experimented” with expanded takeout options and outdoor dining that was limited prior to the pandemic. 

“We’ve been really fortunate to have support from the town so we could take over parking spaces and sidewalk space for outdoor dining,” Morley said. 

Some of the new restaurants that have opened in recent months include the sports bar Dunks, the Italian restaurant Impasto, and The Nest cafe. Other businesses, such as Still North and clothing store J. McLaughlin, opened prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Griffin noted that while there is a lot of “bullishness” in the establishment of new restaurants in town, interest in opening new retail stores has remained low over the past few years. She pointed to the “Amazonization” of the retail industry — smaller retailers, she said, are “unable to compete” with big box stores and online retailers.

“Because a lot of our town’s population is college students who are more online-oriented, a lot of interest in smaller retailers has waned,” Griffin said. 

Griffin added that during the pandemic, there was a “resurgence” in support for local businesses, including both restaurants and retailers. She said that many of the “year-round” residents of the Upper Valley had developed an “increased appreciation” for local small businesses, as many of them were able to remain open in some capacity throughout the pandemic. 

“Looking ahead, I think these retailers will try to cater more to our year-round residents than students, who are more likely to shop online,” Griffin said.

Morley added that Hanover residents, wanting to make sure that businesses could remain open, were “very supportive” of the restaurant industry.

“We still get people coming in every day for takeout and outdoor dining who thank us for staying open,” Morley said. “Also, even though many students were out of the area in spring and summer, they flocked to us for takeout and eating outside.”

Levy said that Hanover residents have been supportive of Still North, crediting a “lot of emotional attachment” to having a bookstore in town. 

“Even though we were only a three-month-old business, during the pandemic, people came out to support us and buy books,” Levy said. “People were super patient with us as we figured out how to do online business, as it was not my plan initially to have online ordering.”

Looking ahead, both Griffin and Morley said that Hanover’s landscape will look different in the future, but much of the town’s “character” will remain the same. Morley added that he anticipates some changes from the pandemic, like more extensive outdoor dining options, continuing into future years. 

“The business scene in Hanover is going to continue to adjust, grow and succeed,” Griffin said. “While we don’t know what Hanover will look like in five or ten years, local business is here to stay.”

Levy said that she hopes that many of the “tried and true” Hanover establishments will continue to be around in future years, despite the turnover of businesses in town. 

“Because it’s a small college town, rent will always be a challenge because of how much of a desirable market the town is,” Levy said. “However, given the current vacancies in town, I hope we will continue to see new businesses come in and continue to make Hanover an exciting destination for food and retail.” 

Correction appended (June 14, 2021): A previous version of this article included a paraphrased statement from town manager Julia Griffin that suggested that Salt Hill Pub, The Skinny Pancake, Market Table, and Morano Gelato all closed because of financial difficulties. Market Table closed because the owner, Nicky Barraclough, retired following health issues — not because of financial difficulties. The inaccurate reference to the restaurant has been removed.