MANCHESTER, N.H. (Jan. 9, 2012) — Too many cars and more customers are among the trade-offs to having presidential candidates as neighbors.
“There’s been a lot more activity since it’s closer to the primary now,” said Maureen O’Donnell, director of vocational services at a satellite office of Granite State Independent Living. Her office is right next to the campaign headquarters of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman in the 1800 block of Elm Street.Parking in the office building has been very tight and the trash receptacles in the back of the building have been overflowing lately, O’Donnell noticed.
“We usually just have a lot of parking up here in the front and we’ve noticed we’ve had to go down below, which really isn’t a big deal,” she said.
Elm Street is one of the main drag in downtown Manchester, lined with small shops and larger chains. The street is also home to three of the main Republican candidates. Within a mile are the offices of Hunstman, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
By and large, the business people welcome their temporary neighbors. But they occasionally bemoan some inconveniences.
Gingrich has set up office between a consignment store and a tobacco shop.
For Laurie Wilder, the owner of Weepeats for Kids and Meet Me at Eliza’s consignment store, having Gingrich to her right has been a boost for her business, mostly. “We probably get a little bit more traffic than we usually get, especially this time of the year,” she said.
But sometimes, she said, having a candidate right next door isn’t a good thing. This morning, she said, a group of Newt supporters were standing out in front of her store for about 30 minutes, holding signs. “I’m not the Newt Gingrich office,” she said. “And it was for Newt. So, I’m like really? It’s right there.”
On the other side of Gingrich’s office is Castro’s Back Room tobacco shop, business has only started to change since the Iowa caucuses ended, said Jay Bloxham, a cashier at the store. Gingrich has been in the space next door since the end of October, beginning of November, Bloxham said.“Up until a week ago, it doesn’t really do anything for my business here for us,” he said
Gingrich supporters sometimes block the crosswalk in front of the store and disrupt the traffic. But it hasn’t hurt the store’s business, Bloxham said.
The Manchester Music Mill hasn’t been quite so lucky. Customers have been preventing from entering the store by Romney’s supporters, said owner Joe LaCerda. “The people are so caught up in the politics that they don’t really care about blocking my door or stopping my business from happening,” he said.
Because of the type of store he owns, LaCerda said, he doesn’t attract any of the supporters into his business. LaCerda sells guitars and other music equipment.
On the other side of Romney’s headquarters sits the Van Otis Chocolates. Employees are worried about congestion caused by having Romney next store. “Our customers can’t find parking and that is an issue for us,” said Gina Gasis, a cashier in the store.
Rachel Atwood, a graphic designer for the store, fears the Romney effect may linger. “I don’t think a lot of people are going to come back once they’re gone,” she said. “I think it’s just like a quick fix.”
Back at Hunstman’s next-door neighbor, Maureen O’Donnell had no complaints. Granite State Independent Living, and O’Donnell’s job in particular, focuses on helping individuals with disabilities find and keep jobs. Clients haven’t really noticed a disruption with Huntsman’s office right next door, O’Donnell said.
“I don’t even think they’ve noticed,” she said. “That’s how quiet they are.”
(Meghin Delaney, a junior with double majors in magazine journalism and political science, is covering the New Hampshire primary for The Lowell Sun.)