In the first of what we hope will be an ongoing, occasional series on local businesses and their place in the Queen City, Emeran Langmaid describes the allure of opening a coffee shop in downtown Manchester.
A&E Custom Coffee Roastery is an award-winning coffee roaster based in Amherst, and founded by Emeran Langmaid in 2001. Given her background in textiles and manufacturing, the Queen City is a natural place for Langmaid’s latest endeavor: the A&E Coffee & Tea cafe that recently opened in the former J Dubs space in downtown Manchester.
“Why Manchester?” I get that question a lot. In fact, I ask that question a lot. What makes Manchester a good place to open a business, a craft coffee and tea cafe nonetheless? Now that I am open, I daily rely on my answer to that question.
The hard facts are that Manchester is one of the larger cities in New England. It is continuing to grow and get favorable rankings as a “great place to live and work” among leading magazines such as Forbes and Money. For a coffee/tea cafe, those are great statistics. However, that alone is not why I opened a second location in Manchester.
You see, at the core, I am an underdog. I like the raw and grittiness that eventually produces something amazing and beautiful. I started a coffee roasting company with two pennies rubbed together, and have grown it to a successful, sustaining company that employs people, creates an environment where everyone is welcome, and has a net positive impact on all we touch; coffee and tea producers all the way to our customers. We take tremendous care and pride in our product and want to pass along that enjoyment to all around us. Manchester has its own underdog history with the rise and fall of the textile industry. It is certainly on the upswing, but as with us all, has areas of improvement.
If you’ve traveled around the country, you may be familiar with the Keep Austin Weird slogan and its offshoots in Louisville, Portland and other cities. On the surface, these campaigns are intended to promote small, local businesses, but they also hint at something more fundamental about these cities, about the attitudes and culture that make them unique.
Portland, Louisville and Austin are all very different cities, but they share certain things in common: the large presence of colleges and universities, a thriving arts scene, an active interest in local businesses, downtowns built along major rivers, and distinct identities that might be described as weird, in the sense of being different, unique or special in an appealing way.
Now, Manchester isn’t as prominent or as weird as any of those cities, but it does have a growing student population (among the largest in northern New England), an increasingly visible arts community, a vibrant downtown that has yet to tap the full potential of the Merrimack River, an increased interest in local businesses and restaurants, and if you know where to look, there’s even a certain weirdness lurking under the surface. After all, where else do candidates like Vermin Supreme get invited to a presidential candidate forum while a piggy bank rolls through the city center? Continue reading Make Manchester weird→
In another promising sign for growth in the Gaslight District, a new antique group shop with 60 dealers is moving into the space formerly occupied by All Outdoors at 321 Elm Street.
Antiques on Elm will open April 1 in an area officially referred to as the Warehouse District, just south of the more well-known Gaslight District and directly across the street from the new Market Basket supermarket. Planners have suggested that the two districts be combined and simply called the Gaslight District, which makes sense to us.
Studio 550 Art Center will soon be occupying the three-story, brick building across Elm Street from the Verizon Wireless Arena, filling one of Manchester’s most prominent, underutilized structures, and breathing life into the slow-to-develop Gaslight District. The building and its future occupant represent the immense potential–just now beginning to be realized–of the Downtown South area.
LivableMHT is planning to meet with Monica Leap of Studio 550 in the near future to discuss the plans for the art center, as well as the building. In the meantime, I took a peek through the windows this past weekend to see the progress that’s already being made on the building.
Lee’s Spot, the well-known, jam-packed, hole-in-the-wall used book store at 917 Elm Street closed last week. Sadly, this represents the passing of an era as downtown Manchester is now totally without a dedicated bookstore. I’d like to think that in time maybe a Barnes & Noble will be incorporated into some new development or a retail spot in the Millyard, or better yet a local, independent bookseller–maybe a new location of such venerable New Hampshire stores as Toadstool or RiverRun–will go in on Elm, Hanover or elsewhere.
The design guidelines, incorporated into the city’s zoning in 2003, call for a pedestrian-oriented group of small districts designed specifically to attract new residents, interesting shops, and a vibrant nightlife to complement the Verizon Wireless Arena. The renderings and recommendations in the guidelines are exciting on their own, but news of increased requests and interest is very promising.