Plymouth retail area sees strong growth
PLYMOUTH — A few decades ago, this town’s shopping center was downtown, and arguments raged among residents and store owners when a new “box” store chain, Walmart, wanted to build a store that would draw customers to the Tenney Mountain Highway.
Today, the downtown is thriving with some of its former occupants and lots of specialty stores. A Super Walmart is also thriving on the highway, along with several new national and regional chain stores and medical offices.
Thanks to directives in the town’s recent master plan, and to what developers say is a business-friendly attitude among town officials, Tenney Mountain Highway is now a shopping hub for people in towns as far north as Littleton, as far west as Canaan, and now from the Lakes Region to the south.
And there are signs that shoppers in the area are driving to Plymouth as an alternative to shopping in Tilton or Gilford, according to those watching the growth.
“It’s beginning to become a busy retail center on a smaller scale than Tilton,” Town Planner Sharon Penney said. “Our master plan mandates that the Tenney Mountain Corridor be used for new businesses, and we are following that mandate, and new businesses are arriving.”
The commercial development on the two-mile highway in recent years has been substantial. Recent additions include a CVS pharmacy, a Dollar Tree store and a Wilson Tire store. And nearly 100,000 square feet of space along the highway is now occupied by medical offices, according to Mike McGinley, who is leading the development of the 76-acre Riverside Landing project.
McDonald’s had been located near the northernmost exit of Interstate 93 but has just moved to Riverside Landing. A branch office of the Bank of New Hampshire is also being built on the property.
If a Market Basket is built, and McGinley thinks it will be, Plymouth will be a strong competitor for shoppers in the region.
Plymouth, which has a Super Walmart and a Hannaford supermarket, would offer more grocery stores than Tilton if a Market Basket is built.
“That competition between the three grocery stores should bring prices down,” McGinley said.
Tilton, which already has a Market Basket, is seeing its Walmart being converted into a Super Walmart, which, like the Plymouth store, will feature a full grocery store when renovations are complete in the spring.
In Gilford, the Hannaford supermarket recently expanded to a larger building, and the Walmart there will be expanding to a Super Walmart in the months ahead.
Still, Tenney Mountain Highway, which sees 24,000 cars per day, doesn’t have enough space to match the commercial developments in Tilton or Gilford, Penney said. But there’s still plenty of room for more businesses. There are acres of building space, and there are buildings that need occupants, she said.
The proposed Market Basket, which is presently on hold as store owners are dealing with family issues, would fill a 60,000-square-foot spot on the 76-acre Riverside Landing lot.
McGinley said he is also in discussions with a major hotel chain about occupying part of the remaining 15 buildable acres at Riverside Landing. Town officials, meanwhile, say they have had recent inquiries from a national office store chain and another large retail chain, both considering locating in Plymouth.
“Plymouth is quickly becoming recognized as a hub of new business and continuing commercial development,” McGinley said. “The town’s vision of increasing commercial growth spells good times ahead.”
McGinley thinks the stores and businesses along the Tenney Mountain Highway will become a favorite for consumers throughout the region, and may be the choice of shoppers to the south who could otherwise drive to Tilton or Gilford, particularly towns close to I-93, like Ashland, New Hampton, Bristol and Meredith.
“I foresee Plymouth achieving vast notoriety,” he said.
The new Business Enterprise Center, which is a partnership between Plymouth State University and the Grafton County Economic Development Council, has attracted several new businesses to its new building in town, said Executive Director Michael Tentnowski.
“I’ve been talking with two businesses, both more than 35 miles away to our north and west, that want to relocate to Plymouth,” Tentnowski said. “I’ve been told by many people that Plymouth is becoming the place to go.”
Art Card of Cozy Cabin Rustics said his business at 757 Tenney Mountain Highway has been booming, so much so that he’s going to more than double his store’s 4,000-square-foot size to 10,000 square feet by the spring.
“We’ve run out of room,” Card said.
Card said his business has grown in great part due to customers coming from towns to the north and east.
“I’m seeing a large influx of people from the Newfound area, Campton, Lincoln, and we’ve even been drawing some from Vermont,” he said.
Other new businesses, such as Tractor Supply Company in the Boulder Drive development on the east end of the highway, have drawn more shoppers, he said.
“We just got a CVS, now we’re looking at a Market Basket,” he said. “The new stores are bringing more people.”
McGinley agrees. “All of these chains have chosen Plymouth as their new location,” he said. “A lot of shoppers are doing the same thing.”
“The town’s vision of increasing commercial growth spells good times ahead.