GILFORD — Aglow with new tenants and freshly refurbished, the Village at Paugus Bay is ready for a coming out party. Its new owners, Neil and Elisa Silver, are just getting started.
The Silvers acquired the building when Neil’s investment banking business seized the previous owner. Rather than resell it, the couple took it under their wing.
“I really fell in love with the area,” Neil said. The Silvers, who are from California, bought a house in Laconia this spring. Neil, who previously worked on Wall Street, said the extensive work he has done in the village has been “a labor of love”.
When he first visited the square, Neil said he was appalled at what he saw. The previous owners had not taken care of the building and, with a non-functioning heating system and mold on the walls, it was beyond run down.
The Silvers decided to be different: to do justice to the building and its commercial tenants and bring life back to a property with a prime location. This meant making more than cosmetic adjustments. They replaced the plumbing, heating, floors, air conditioning, etc.
“I like challenges,” Neil said. He enlisted his wife Elisa to handle the marketing and general beautification.
The vision behind the renovation of the Village’s 29 commercial spaces was to create a business community with a diverse portfolio of offerings and an atmosphere of mutual support among small business owners.
“We hope that restaurants, cafes, gyms, medical and legal offices, retail businesses, everything,” will find their way to the Village, Elisa said.
That view was met with pessimism in the local community, the Silvers said. They didn’t listen. They highlighted that they have the passion, skills and capital to build a location and a community where local small businesses will thrive.
“The proof is in the pudding,” Elisa said. “People will see what we’re doing here and understand.”
“We made a commitment,” Neil said. “And we’re not going anywhere.”
The Silvers also purchased the neighboring China Bistro property. They have a deal with Hilton to build a four-story hotel behind the existing bistro, which they plan to gut and turn into an events or conference center.
Notably, they also considered building affordable apartments on the land behind the village. Neil said it is important that there are places where local residents can afford to live. The building would house at least 70, possibly more than 100 units, according to Neil.
The Argents aim for these developments to complement each other and kick the revitalization of this complex into high gear. As newcomers to the area, they said, they are always open to feedback from locals on what, say, China Bistro should become.
The renovation is complete, but the project is “a work in progress,” Elisa said. She wants to coordinate with local artists and schools to put art on the walls and tie local history and culture to the character of the village.
The Silvers believe success going forward hinges on both being as considerate of their tenants as possible and community outreach messages to dispel any lingering stigma around the building.
“It takes a village, it really does,” Elisa said. “We are so proud of our tenants.
When the Silvers took over, the building had two tenants. There are now 14. They hope it will be full soon.
Heather Abbott, whose several businesses are now all located in the village, is a long-time tenant. Abbott first arrived in the village in December. His businesses – Used 2B New, a thrift and second-hand clothes shop, Rakin’ It In Property Services and Vinyl Visions printing – found themselves in the village one by one. She has also received pessimistic comments about the Paugus Bay resort, but shares the Silvers’ optimism about a new reputation.
“This place could be very hoppin’,” Abbott said. “We just need visibility – I don’t think a lot of people even know there’s a mall here.” She praised the work the Silvers have done to revamp the resort.
Ann Marie Shpeley has used her platform of more than 20 years in photography to open Harbor Lane Studio & Gallery, a gallery she hopes will uplift local fine art photographers and develop connections with the student population. local photographer. Shpeley said he chose his space at the Village because its unique triangular shape is perfect for housing a gallery.
Shpeley said art galleries don’t usually showcase fine art photography on the same level as other media, and she wanted to create a platform for her local peers: Harbor Lane Gallery features five landscape photographers from New England, including Shpeley, all of whom get an individual show once a year. She also aims to use her studio as a way to reach photography programs at local schools.
Todd Rollins, owner of Ready Golf Teachings and Club Fittings, heard about the openings in the village through word of mouth. Ready Golf offers golf lessons, club tryouts and limited golf simulator rentals.
Rollins worked in the golf industry for decades, including 17 years at Laconia Country Club, and was ready to start his own business. Rollins knew he wanted to keep his business local and said the new village space was perfect.
“There seem to be more and more vendors coming in every day,” Rollins said. “The owners have worked hard and been nothing but great with me.”
Dajana Wildt’s Wildt Performance Gym opens July 11 in the village. Wildt and her young family moved to New Hampshire last year and to Laconia in February from Oehringen, Germany. In addition to private personal training, Wildt Performance offers three classes, one geared toward women’s fitness, one toward back strengthening and rehabilitation, and a high-intensity “functional meets Hyrox” class. Wildt’s background is in sports rehabilitation, personal training and competitive strongman – in 2016 she was Germany’s second strongest woman.
Wildt said she was overwhelmed by the opportunity presented by the opening of her new business in the village. “It’s my dream, my passion,” she said.
Tania Iris Barreto started giving music lessons remotely during the height of the pandemic shutdowns, but, with the reopening, customers wanted in-person options. Barreto’s Musician Now caters primarily to Christian music programs and churches, but also offers private lessons for anyone interested in learning an instrument.
Barreto had recently moved to New Hampshire and had seen signs in the village they rented. “I didn’t know it was a place,” she says. She had struggled to find a place that could accommodate her belongings: the owners shook their heads at the thought of loud music.
The Silvers had the opposite reaction, Barreto said. “Elisa told me how thrilled they would be to have kids music playing and that I would fit in so well.” Barreto praised the village for being both a beautiful location for his business and a supportive business community.
Amy Magdich launched Love-a-Lot Floral and Event Services in June. Love-a-Lot is a full-service florist backed by Magdich’s 27 years of experience in flower arrangement design. It also sells sweets, gifts and products from local artisans.
Magdich said she is excited to be part of the business community forming in the village, especially since it includes a large number of female business owners. The Silvers stop by frequently to see how she is doing and “really encourage a great community” among their tenants. “That’s what they wanted to do from the start and they’re doing it,” Magdich said.
Magdich echoed his neighbors’ optimism about increased foot traffic in the village. The place is a sleeping giant, she says. The one who is ready to wake up.
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