Pandemic recovery brings changes, new business in the city center

2021-11-12 09:51:18 By : Ms. Lucy Lu

Soapery Off Main on Warren Street is one of a series of companies that opened, reopened or expanded their product range in downtown Concord during the summer and fall of 2021.

Cristy Bergeron-Charest has collected a series of oils and fragrances for different types of soaps in her new retail store Soapery Off Main on Warren Street. This is a series of products opened, reopened or expanded in the center of Concord. One of the companies in the summer and autumn of 2021. GEOFF FORESTER——Monitor

Cristy Bergeron-Charest showcases different types of soap in her new retail store Soapery Off Main on Warren Street, which is one of a series of companies that opened, reopened or expanded their product range in downtown Concord in the summer and fall of 2021 . GEOFF FORESTER——Monitor

Cristy Bergeron-Charest displayed her series of soaps at her new retail store Soapery Off Main on Warren Street. The store is one of the companies that opened, reopened or expanded their product range in downtown Concord in the summer and fall of 2021. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Cristy Bergeron-Charest mixes ingredients to make soap at her new retail store, Soapery Off Main, located at the back of Warren Street. This is one of a series of companies that opened, reopened or expanded their product range in downtown Concord in summer and fall 2021 year. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor

Cristy Bergeron-Charest collected her different types of soaps in her new retail store, Soapery Off Main on Warren Street. This is one of a series of companies that opened, reopened or expanded their product range in downtown Concord in summer and fall. One in 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor

Cristy Bergeron-Charest mixes ingredients behind her new retail business, Soapery Off Main, to make soap. GEOFF FORESTER / Supervisor

When disinfectants suddenly became scarce in the spring of 2020, the Concord helicopter maintenance business contacted Cristy Bergeron-Charest. Can Bergeron-Charest, which has been operating a handmade soap brand called Scrub it NH for five years, start making hand sanitizers for employees?

Soon, she produced and sent hundreds of bottles of essential oil-infused disinfectants every day. She said: "People came to my house and picked up hand sanitizer without even waiting for me to ship the goods."

Now COVID has entered a new stage after the vaccine is distributed, and her business has also entered a new stage. In August, she opened a retail store called Soapery Off Main on Warren Street.

Soapery Off Main is one of many new downtown businesses that opened in the city center after the pandemic. Others include shopping malls, home improvement stores, baby boutiques and antique stores.

Bergeron-Charest first taught herself how to make soap so that she could make gifts for the teacher of her three daughters. Owning her own retail store allows her to look after her 16-year-old second daughter, Sofia, who suffers from a rare genetic disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is educated in a virtual way.

If her daughter has an epileptic seizure, Bergeron-Charest can pull out a bed stored in a closet, where she also stores turmeric and apricot oil, as well as sugar and cocoa butter, to mix into a scrub and balm in the store.

She makes aromatherapy shower steamers, deodorants, candles, facial scrubs made from ground coffee beans, bar shampoos and conditioners, and of course soap. This process involves careful attention to temperature and chemistry, which Bergeron-Charest taught himself through blogs and books.

Soapery Off main also sells upgraded items, such as golden oyster shells thrown away from restaurants, and ladders made by a college student at the University of Southern Maine that serve as beautiful blanket storage rooms. Many items are zero waste, such as reusable hand warmers and makeup removers, or use natural ingredients, such as those in dry facial masks that require water activation.

She said that Warren Street is close enough to the city center to attract people and the rent is more affordable.

So far, the response from Concord shoppers has been positive. "We already have repeat customers coming during the lunch break, and they are like, my god, my mother stole my soap and I need another one," Bergeron-Charest said.

In the past few months, she has joined a series of female business owners who have expanded shopping options in downtown Concord, often chasing long-term dreams of running their own stores.

In August, Bridget Windsor opened Spruce Home Goods and Company on Main Street to sell home furnishings and home furnishing products. In September, business partners and antique professionals Joy Cadarette and Sharon Beauchesne began to welcome customers to Antiques & Estates at 208 North Avenue. Earlier this month, Carrolyn Herrick's homeware and baby boutique Homebody was launched on North Street.

In order to create an alternative to eating and shopping on the main street, Maher Abbas, the owner of Wow Fried Chicken on 5 Pleasant Street, opened a new arcade this fall, which is child-friendly in the city centre. New options are added to the night.

Some of the most popular Concord restaurants also reopened this month after a long pause, including Angelina’s Italian restaurant, which reopened this week after months of renovation after a pipe burst last December. The process was delayed due to supply chain disruption, making it difficult to obtain the necessary materials.

The Gibson's Cafe in the bookstore reopened for the first time since 2020. It is directly operated by Gibson's, not as a satellite of True Brew baristas. At the same time, True Brew’s former main location at Bicentennial Square will soon become the home of a new coffee shop, Brothers Curtado.

Intown Concord executive director Jessica Martin (Jessica Martin) stated that her organization is excited about the emergence of new businesses and upcoming events, such as Halloween Howl on October 29 and Midnight Joy in December. It was cancelled last year.

"I think we are all optimistic about the location and direction of the city center," Martin said. Wow Chicken's new arcade in particular provides a different attraction for the city.

"This really puts Concord at the top of the map for shopping, wandering and doing things, and going to the mall, but for things like this, Concord is not always the case," she said.

Martin said that downtown shops and restaurants have also encountered problems that plague businesses in other parts of the country, including hiring enough staff and shipping delays.

"Even if people come out to support businesses, we are still affected by COVID-19," Martin said.

The restaurant had to adjust its opening hours to serve customers during the busiest time of the week. After November 15th, the extended outdoor dining plan approved by the Concord City Council will end this season, restricting the public space that restaurants can use for seating.

Since July 2021, Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter for Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice. Previously, she was a researcher at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published on Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she is not at the city council meeting, you will find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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