By Lynn Cozza Goodman

Hampton Union, Friday, March 3, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

As I drove north on Route 1 through down town Hampton, I was struck by how empty the Shell Station looked, so I stopped in. I remember early last winter that Shell Oil told the station the site had been sold and the station would be closed.

Here it is the beginning of March and the station is still open. Ralph (the younger) was in the office, so I was able to get an update on the status of my favorite service station. Ralph told me the closing date could be as soon as the end of March. Apparently, there are still details to be worked out.

I for one will be sad to see the station close. Since I moved to Hampton in 1998, that Shell station has served as my automotive anchor. Any time I had some little problem or an automotive question, I knew Ralph and the guys would be there to help. It was where I always bought my gas. Not because it was Shell gas, but because of the people there. They were happy to accept my personal checks; many other businesses do not. I liked the camaraderie amongst the crew there — they clearly enjoyed each other, laughing, joking, but getting their work done as well. I always felt comfortable there — I could count on them for straight answers and honest work. I was treated with respect, never in a condescending manner.

While conversing with Ralph, I learned a Starbucks coffee shop will be going into that space. A Starbucks? Good grief! Is Hampton “yuppified” enough to support $3 and $4 cups of coffee? Sprinkled with cinnamon, no less? And would people actually choose Starbucks over Dunkin’ Donuts?

On top of that, the convenience store next to the Shell will also be closing, and, according to Ralph, a combo Kinko’s/FedEx Copy-and-Ship Center will be going in. Then he also told me the funeral home (the business that replaced Friendly’s not too long ago) might be closing; apparently, there is not sufficient income to cover expenses. That we’re not dying fast enough is good, I think.

Then I got to thinking about other closings in the downtown: the Bib & Crib shop, Colt News, the 7-11 around the corner on High Street, and, as I learned recently, the Stoneweaver Book Store as well. It’s really a shame the bookstore has to close — I was glad to see Hampton with its own independent bookstore at last. I really hoped the support would be there for it. Stoneweaver owner Rob told me he will move the business online and work out of his home. I wish him luck. Wonder what will go into that space?

Speaking of replacements, I asked the lady behind the counter at Colt News what might be going in there, and conjecture was it might be law offices. Stands to reason, considering the owner of the property and the location. I was pleased to see a Me & Ollie’s in the 7-11 space – their products are yummy!

What is happening in Hampton? So much turnover in businesses, in such short spaces of time. Is this happening in other Seacoast communities? Is it happening elsewhere in New Hampshire? Should we be concerned? Should we be concerned about what moves into empty spaces? And how come we don’t know about these things ahead of time? Are townspeople allowed any input? Was any of this in the newspaper? Did I miss it? Just asking …

Hampton’s closings represent major changes at highly visible locations. Downtown is undergoing a transition, and we’ll have to wait until the dust settles to see how it turns out. I’ll be watching with interest, as I munch down a goodie from Me & Ollie’s. But no coffee, thanks.

[Lynn Cozza Goodman is a resident of Hampton.]