For some Concord businesses, politics brings unexpected boon

  • A map that shows which Concord businesses 2020 candidates have been frequenting so far. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • New Hampshire Rep. Kris Schultz (with hat) and Maura Willing (right) have their photos taken with U.S. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y, at the Revelstoke Coffee and Tea in downtown Concord in February.

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, had to deal with a throng of people and press during a campaign stop last week at Gibson’s Book Store in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • UNH Law School, founded in 1974 as Franklin Pierce Law School. Became part of UNH in 2010. Courtesy

  • WKXL has a radio booth right on Main Street in the Concord Camera storefront. Every now and then, political candidates will stop by for a chat. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • The Barley House sometimes hosts WKXL's Concord "Pints and Politics" show. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/13/2019 5:58:06 PM

When Alex Stoyle and Lyndsey Cole were designing Revelstoke Coffee on Main Street, they were looking to create a place where people could catch up and share ideas.

They didn’t anticipate throngs of reporters trailing presidential candidates. But that’s who showed up in mid-February about an hour before Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York came by for a planned stop.

“When you start up a business on Main Street, you don’t think about that possibility,” Stoyle said. “You never feel like someone running for president would come through the doors.”

“It’s the craziest thing,” he added. “We had a lot of goals when opening this coffee shop, and the fact that New Hampshire is the political epicenter of the world every four years didn’t cross our minds.”

It’s still very early in the presidential primary race, but the Capital City hotspots for Granite Staters wanting to get a sense of the candidates are starting to take shape.

The place with the most action so far has been Gibson’s Bookstore on S. Main Street, with five candidates visiting to date.

The independent bookstore was a campaign stop early on for candidates U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, made a stop there last weekend.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who has since decided not to run for president, spent some of his exploratory time there, too. So has author Marianne Williamson.

Gibson’s Bookstore owner Michael Hermann said the attention is all about location: Gibson’s is one of the few places in downtown that’s easily accessible and can fit a couple hundred people.

There isn’t always a lot of time to prepare. Hermann said some campaigns have asked to use space 24 to 48 hours in advance. But it’s early in the campaign season yet, and bookstore staff only needed to set up a microphone and rearrange some furniture to prepare for a visit.

And while Gibson’s has seen some presidential attention before – including a book signing event with Hillary Clinton in December 2017 – Hermann pointed out the bookstore has been in its current Main Street location only since 2013, and most of their events are book-centered.

The attention they’re getting this year, he said, is unusual for a presidential campaign season.

“Part of the mission is to serve as a community gathering space,” he said. “Also, it’s kind of an intelligent setting; you’re surrounded by books. It’s a congenial public space. We designed it to be as friendly as possible.”

Revelstoke, meanwhile, was built into recent campaign stops for Gillibrand and Republican candidate and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. But the styles of their visits were very different, Stoyle said.

Gillibrand’s January visit was more choreographed, with reporters checking in beforehand, and Gillibrand chatting and posing for photos, Stoyle said. Her campaign also gave the coffee shop owners a few weeks notice.

Whereas Weld let Revelstoke know a day or so beforehand that he would be stopping by for a conversation with New Hampshire Republican National Committee member Steve Duprey in March.

“He was more like ‘I’ll have a coffee’ and sat down,” Stoyle said. “He was more of an old-school politician; there was no grand introduction.”

Coffee shops could become the casual meet-and-greet location in Concord; True Brew Barista has been the site of smaller events for Venture for America founder Andrew Yang and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

If you’re more of a series-style political consumer, the Barley House is headquarters for N.H. Talk Radio’s Pints and Politics, where candidates grab a beer with local political pundits. They’ve chatted with Weld, former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Williamson and former U.S. Congressman John Delaney of Maryland this year.

You could also be walking past the Concord Camera store one morning and see a candidate hanging out in the window. N.H. Talk Radio occasionally hosts candidates for shows there, too.

And the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire has teamed up with the University of New Hampshire’s School of Law to launch “Civil Liberties and the Presidency,” which ACLU-NH political director Jeanne Hruska described as a “forum for voters to engage presidential candidates on pressing civil rights and civil liberties issues.”

They’ve hosted Delaney and Castro so far and are close to announcing a few more, Hruska said.

The city and school district of Concord are getting in on the action, too.

Gillibrand spent $380 to rent out the Heights Community Center’s auditorium and a program room two weeks ago.

Andrew Yang spent $470 to borrow space at Concord High School last Monday. On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was at Christa McAuliffe School for an organizing event that cost her $985. This coming Monday, Delaney will roll out his plans for a national service program for graduated high school students at Concord High School, spending $500.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached   at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)



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