Downtown: The Eagles are Concord’s ‘well-kept secret’
A membership card is required to enter the old brick building on South Main Street, marked by its long staircase and neon “Eagles” sign.
Tucked inside the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Aerie 613, there is a bar, dance floor, pool tables and two “Lucky 7” slot machines that raise money for the group’s donations to charity.
“We’re a well-kept secret,” said head trustee Raymond Nolin.
In the shadow of the turquoise Department of Employment Security headquarters, it’s easy to miss the Eagles. But as the city seeks a developer to demolish the Employment Security building, its block on South Main street will take the spotlight.
Aerie #613, which celebrated its 108th anniversary last week, hopes to remain on South Main Street. They’ve been at 36 S. Main St. since 1955, Nolin said.
Smoke lingered in the air one morning last week, as a few men sat at one end of the bar. The rest of the room, with tinsel Valentine’s Day centerpieces on every table, was mostly dark.
At one time, there were 500 members. But numbers have dwindled. Last year, as many as 50 died or entered nursing homes. Many have moved to “the aerie in the sky,” Nolin said, pointing one finger upward and pausing to remember a member who recently died. The group has some young members and hopes to attract more. Last week, the aerie welcomed two new members.
Now, there are 350 members in the aerie and 160 members in the auxiliary. Both men and women can join either the aerie or auxiliary groups, which in the past were separated by gender. Potential members must be sponsored by current members, complete an interview and receive approval votes from 51 percent of the membership. Once initiated, members pay an annual $30 membership fee.
Nolin, a 70-year-old Pembroke resident and retired Amtrak electrician, joined the group at age 25. He now serves as secretary and chairman of the trustees.
“The only reason that I have stayed in this organization for 45 years is all the charity work that we do,” Nolin said.
Last year’s donations to local charities totaled about $35,000, Nolin said, listing past contributions: flat-screen televisions and a new freezer for the New Hampshire Veteran’s Home; Little League and soccer team sponsorships; and money to local churches and organizations that serve the homeless.
The bar “just brings people in to socialize,” Nolin said, and it mostly pays for itself with the cost of drinks.
It also offers a quiet gathering place. Members must adhere to rules and are subject to a disciplinary system. Fighting at the bar, for example, can lead to suspension or expulsion from the aerie.
On a typical weekend night, Nolin said 30 to 60 members come and go, playing in the pool and cribbage leagues and enjoying dances, karaoke or the jukebox.
Inside, the aerie is a reminder of past decades, with its wooden stools around the bar and old awards hanging from the walls. But Nolin said he’s worked to update the space, knocking down walls to brighten and widen the room.
The aerie’s slot machines raise money for charity, Nolin said, as do raffles, dances and 10 dedicated days at the Seabrook Poker Room each year.
Aerie 613 contributes to its national organization, which has larger charity projects. Based in Ohio, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles has 1,400 aeries in the United States and Canada.
Members can also suggest donations to local charities, Nolin said.
“Probably every two weeks here in Concord, I write a check to a local charity,” he said.
With talk of redevelopment next door, and developer Steve Duprey’s new building going up across the street, change surrounds the Eagles on South Main Street. But its members aren’t thinking of moving.
“We haven’t really talked much about it,” he said.
And any potential sale or move would require deliberations by the members in Concord, followed by approval from the Grand Aerie headquarters in Ohio. The building belongs to the national organization, Nolin said.
“We’d love to stay here,” said Nolin, glancing around the room that’s been part of his life for 45 years.
Funding for Intown
Intown Concord will receive $20,000 from the city this year; the funding was reviewed after city councilors voiced concern over the organization’s Be Local Concord program.
The funding was approved in December, after Intown Concord agreed to remove Be Local Concord from its website, according to Fiscal Policy Advisory Committee meeting minutes.
Intown Concord’s Be Local Concord initiative encourages consumers to shop at locally-owned businesses instead of national chain stores, and offers incentives for local shopping. (The Monitor is one of Intown Concord’s corporate sponsors.)
When the city’s budget was approved in June, Ward 9 City Councilor Candace Bouchard said she felt funding the Be Local Concord campaign was unfair to other businesses in the city. The council agreed to review the program before the money was sent to Intown Concord.
City Manager Tom Aspell said last week that he reviewed Intown Concord’s finances and found that the Be Local Concord program’s money is separated from the rest of its finances.
“They have always kept them separate,” Aspell said. “There’s no crossover of the dollars.”
Fashion Zone out, Rent One in
The Rent One Plus store on Fort Eddy Road is moving to North Main Street.
The building at 234 N. Main St., which most recently held Fashion Zone, is currently under renovation.
Rent One Plus president Evan Mcdonald said the store hopes to relocate by March 1.
Dick Benson, owner of Brix & Stix construction company, is completing renovation work at the site. The building previously had two storefronts, but Benson said he’s turning it into one single store.
Benson said Fashion Zone moved out of one of the storefronts Jan. 31. The other side of the building had been vacant.
Music festival returns
Planning is under way for the second annual Granite State Music Festival.
Organizers are planning and raising money for the two-day festival, scheduled for June 22-23.
The first festival drew about 500 people last June to the Kiwanis Riverfront Park in Concord, falling short of the 1,000 ticket sales needed to cover costs.
Scott Solsky, director of the nonprofit festival, said he hopes to sell 1,000 tickets this year.
“We learned a lot from last year and we’re trying to accommodate in our budget to make it more feasible,” he said.
Last week, the festival launched a Kickstarter campaign for 2013, asking supporters to contribute a total of $10,000 by March 6.
Solsky said the festival will soon begin selling tickets and announcing headline bands. He has also received hundreds of band submissions from local musicians hoping to play at the festival.
For more information, visit facebook.com/granitestatemusicfest.
Windows of the Main Street storefront that most recently held Just Be Boutique are covered with brown paper – but its owners aren’t ready to say what they’re doing inside.
When Just Be moved to Sheep Davis Road in September, landlord Remi Hinxhia said his sister might open a restaurant in the 62 N. Main St. space. Before Just Be moved into the store in 2010, it was home to Cool Moose Creamery.
Reached last week at Remi’s Place restaurant on Pleasant Street, Hinxhia’s sister said she is not ready to discuss her plans. But according to the city’s online building permit information, she applied for a building permit to renovate the space and open a Greek restaurant.
Social think tank
Murdoch Social Capital is trying to create a greater sense of community in Concord, and its mission continues tomorrow night with a brainstorming event.
Participants will discuss examples, including the Concord Arts Market and Intown Concord, and develop a “roadmap tailored to our community,” Director Kim Murdoch wrote in a press release.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. with a potluck dinner in the Carriage House at the Kimball Jenkins Estate. The think tank will begin at 7 p.m.