Why I Built My Business in Manchester, New Hampshire
Three shop owners and an artist share why they chose Manchester to grow their businesses
Having a solid business plan in place is, no doubt, important. But beyond the number crunching and the spreadsheets is something less tangible yet truly paramount to a business owner’s success: a community that loves to support local shops, restaurants and art studios.
An eagerness to “shop local” is part of the magic in Manchester, New Hampshire, where entrepreneurs are met with excitement from residents and visitors alike and the city’s main thoroughfare, Elm Street, is bustling with unique, homegrown businesses.
From a gift shop to a glass art studio and a lifestyle boutique stocked with pretty plants, the owners of three Manchester businesses tell us what they love about doing business in the heart of New England.
Leslie Boswack: Owner of Lilac + Finch
Highlighting artists from New England and beyond, Leslie Boswack opened her gift shop Lilac + Finch in 2021.
Tell us about the local artisans who are represented on the shelves at Lilac + Finch.
We have an abundance of crafts from New Hampshire makers, and our list of local artisans continues to grow.
If you are looking for something local as well as unique, we carry jewelry designs that are handcrafted by a local farrier from horseshoe nails. A few of our other most popular locally crafted goods include sterling silver and polymer clay jewelry, along with a variety of specialty foods, a large greeting card line, pewter ornaments, candles and our house body care line.
Why did you start your business in Manchester? And, what do you like about doing business here?
I was born and raised in Manchester and have lived in New Hampshire my entire life. This is my hometown, and I wanted to bring back the joy of boutique shopping to our downtown.
With so many people working from home, many of the office spaces are now empty. When we opened our doors, the community greeted us wholeheartedly. The residents of Manchester and the surrounding areas are so happy to have a unique full-service gift shop in our hometown. We knew immediately that Lilac + Finch was the right decision for our downtown.
For someone visiting your shop, what would you recommend they bring home as a souvenir?
The two most popular souvenirs we carry are pewter New Hampshire ornaments and maple syrup. Hampshire Pewter’s New Hampshire-themed ornaments are beautifully crafted to represent our state. Our other souvenir staple would be some maple syrup from Fuller’s Sugarhouse in Lancaster, New Hampshire. They package their delicious syrup in stunning oval glass bottles with a moose etched into the glass.
Where’s your favorite place to get a coffee in the area?
My favorite place for coffee depends on the day. I love A&E Coffee and Tea’s vanilla, lavender latte. Another of my favorites is Café la Reine’s iced Americano.
Verne Orlosk: Fuse Glass Artist at StudioVerne
At her working studio and gallery, Verne Orlosk also leads workshops, teaching others the joy of fused glass. The art form involves joining colorful, compatible glass together with the heat of a kiln.
Why did you start your business in Manchester? What do you like about doing business here?
I was teaching glass in Manchester for 17 years with a small studio space. The evolution of my work required that I have a larger space and more directed time. I was able to find an unconventional studio in the theater district that allowed me to continue to focus and develop the art of fused glass as well as participate in cultural happenings. The beginning of this year brought about an unexpected move for my studio. After almost eight years, that building was sold for housing development. It was a moment to decide if I wanted to stay in Manchester. Having enjoyed and been committed to the arts community there, I was able to find a similar space and relocate along with other business neighbors in the same situation. We are literally 130 steps around the corner.
There was encouragement from a new landlord, business friends and patronage surrounding us. That helped to validate that we were an important contribution to the city. The small community spirit for creativity is a comforting way to progress.
How does New Hampshire’s landscape influence your artistic process?
Although not geographically accurate, living and working in Manchester feels like the center of New England. The mountains, lakes and the ocean are equidistant. There are four distinct seasons that provide endless inspiration for artists here. Tourists, as they travel through Manchester, have also given me insight — perspective from leaf peepers and patrons that I cherish.
What’s a piece you’re working on now that you’re excited about?
The fall season is approaching. I have a process of using glass powders to create a series of fused glass leaves. I have work that represents all the seasons, but the combination of colors in glass and changing leaves is captivating. I continue to push the “what ifs” in kiln-fired glass, and I have been looking deeper into the changes that happen close to the earth.
Nicole Rocha: Co-Owner of The Terracotta Room
The Terracotta Room is a sustainable lifestyle boutique and plant nursery. The store shares a space with Blush Beauty Boutique and Jenny Austin Beauty. In addition, Empress Alchemy offers tarot readings and Reiki healing in the space two to three times a week.
Tell us about the New Hampshire makers you carry.
One NH maker that we carry is called Twisted Pine Jewelry. She makes beautiful, beaded bracelets with all different stones. The products we carry generally come from all over. Our guidelines for what we carry are pretty simple: We like to try and support smaller artists and brands with a great story behind them, and most importantly, company transparency — meaning they are pretty clear on how they source their product and ethically manufacture them. If it checks those boxes, then we look to make sure it’s something unique, practical and aesthetically pleasing.
Why did you start your business in Manchester?
Truth be told, the opportunity kind of fell into my lap. I was born and raised in Bedford, N.H., and went to Manchester West High School, which is where I met Stephanie Templeton, owner of Blush Beauty Boutique & Spa. After we graduated high school, we went off to different schools and lost touch for a bit — both of us just navigating through life. She opened Blush in 2014 as a full-operating salon and spa, and in 2020 she was forced to close temporarily due to Covid. It was then that she decided to pivot her business and use half of her space for something else. That is when I got the call from Steph, throwing out the idea of me cohesively opening up a store within her business.
I asked my good friend and coworker at the time, Alexis if she wanted to partner up. With our combined retail experience, skills and eye for design, we knew we had the ability to create something special.
What do you like about doing business here?
As a native from the area, I have long seen Manchester’s greatness, even through the ups and downs like most cities go through.
My grandfather Ernest D’Amours was the Attorney General in the late 1940s when Manchester was recognized as a place of booming opportunity. My grandfather was definitely an admirable and respected man. He had a tremendous reputation of caring for his community.
Through The Terracotta Room, I have discovered a newfound purpose within myself to help Manchester reach its highest potential because there truly is so much talent and love here. I see it heading in a very indie direction with a lot of art and culture.
One of my favorite things about Manchester is how central it is. You are literally an hour from Boston, the mountains, the lake or the beach.
What niche does your shop fill in Manchester?
As they say, timing is everything, and opening the store in 2020 definitely holds true to that. We opened on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020. We were in full swing of learning how to operate in the midst of a pandemic, with a great amount of uncertainty of where life was headed.
So, in that regard, we found that our community was super psyched to not only see a store opening but also to find that it was retail, as downtown has a ton of great restaurants but not a lot of shopping. 2020 was definitely a big year for plant enthusiasts, as well as for spiritual well-being, so we tied and curated these things together in hopes to create a unique and high-vibrational shopping experience.
We hate to ask you to play favorites, but what type of plants are you loving right now and why?
Oh man, our favorite plants change daily! They are truly all beautiful and unique in their own way, but hands down, the ZZ plant will always be my go-to for anyone looking to buy their first plant or looking to give as a gift. This plant is as low maintenance as they come, and it actually thrives on neglect! They are beautiful plants and do not require a ton of light, which is helpful when you live in a place with long winters. When it comes to plants, we strive to set our customers up with success, and this plant is definitely a rewarding one, so long as you don’t overwater it!
What’s an item in your store that you have a hard time keeping in stock because it’s so popular?
We definitely have a lot of staples. Plants, in general, are always at the top of the list. We also have customers that can’t live without an essential oil perfume called Desert Fleur. Crystals are also very quick to go. More so in the cooler months, we sell these Shower Eucalyptus Tablets made up of essential oils that steam up in the shower which have also become a must-have. They help you in relaxing and clearing your senses.
What’s a must-visit spot in Manchester on the weekend?
Downtown we have a large arena, so it’s never a bad idea to check for any upcoming concerts or shows. You can also check what’s happening at the Palace Theatre for comedy or theatrical shows. There is also The Currier Museum of Art which regularly runs some great exhibitions.
This article was sponsored by Manchester Economic Development Office.