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Building a business from bean one

LACONIA — "It's easy to grow from nothing," remarked Brad Fitizgerald, who began Woodshed Roasting Company in 2010 with a one-pound roasting machine and after expanding sales by 25 percent or more annually is now roasting, packaging and delivering 700 pounds of coffee beans a week.

"I'm not going to go out and become the next Green Mountain," Fitzgerald cautioned, referring to what began as a roasting operation in a small cafe in Waitsfield, Vermont in 1981 and became Keurig Green Mountain, which last year sold a 10 percent stake to the Coca Cola Company for $1.25billion, "but, business is good."

While still operating the local plumbing and heating business he began in 1984 and closed last year, Fitzgerald, with his small roaster, began by selling a handful of specialty coffees in farmers markets, but soon was vying for shelf space in supermarkets and offering his product to restuarants.

"I knocked on the doors and asked to see the manager," Fitzgerald said of his odyssey through the corporate hierarchy of the supermarket chains. "I got the name of a guy and the name of another guy and climbed the ladder till I got to the right guy," he said. "It's quite an involved process," he continued, explaining that corporate management must qualify the product, packaging and labeling. After eight months, he secured space at Hannaford, which stocks his coffees at 34 stores, and also secured space from Associated Grocers of Pembroke, which operates Vista Foods and Harvest Markets in new Hampshire. Fitzgerald said that he also qualified with Shaw's, but withdrew his coffees from that company's shelves when they failed to sell at the price Shaw's set.

Describing the business as a "wholesale roaster", Fitzgerald said that groceries and restaurants represent more than 60-percent of sales with single serving cups — "K cups" — accounting for most of the rest. Coffees are also sold on-line, at some farmer's markets and at the store at 116 Hounsell Avenue in the Lakes Business Park. "Only three or four percent of our business is retail sales," Fitzgerald said, adding that to promote the Woodshed brand and encourage retail trade he will be hosting an open house at company headquarters in May.

Woodshed Roasting Company offers more than a dozen single origin coffees, grown at a specific location or within a particular country, some of which are estate coffees, harvested on an individual farm. All are certified organic as well as certified Rainforest Alliance or certified Fair Trade coffees, which provide an optimal return to the grower. Currently the inventory includes coffees from Columbia, Tanzania, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Sumatra and Papua New Guinea. In addition, There are also seven blends, including "Fat Tire," which celebrates Laconia Motorcycle Week, and Pink Ribbon, which supports the New Hampshire Breast Cancer Coalition.

Fitzgerald said that the market for specialty coffees is growing in New England and along with it an interest in buying from local producers.

"The sky's the limit," he said while conceding the market is very competitive. In the supermarkets, he said, there may be 15 or more brands of coffee on the shelf, products from other small roasters among them. Likewise, he noted there is stiff competition for the restaurant trade. "people don't want to pay for coffee," he said while explaining restaurants can purchase premium coffee wholesale and offer their patrons a quality product for what he calculated "boils down to pennies a cup more".

With three coffee roasters, two filling and weighing machines and a machine solely for filling and sealing K-cups, Fitzgerald and his two employees, have capacity to produce a ton of packaged coffee a week, almost three times current output. "We've been growing " he observed, "but at some point we'll reach a plateau. Then we'll have to look at going into Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts. But, I'm not looking to become Green Mountain," he repeated. "I want to keep it small and family owned."


CAPTION: Brad Fitzgerald, founder of the Woodshed Roasting Company, with the San Franciscan Coffee Roaster, one of three with which the firm produces 700 pounds of specialty, organic coffees a week for grocery stores and restaurants throughout the state. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 March 2015 12:52

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Motorist said to have spotted Laconia woman 'shooting' heroin on I-93

MANCHESTER — Three Lakes Region residents found themselves under arrest on drug charges Thursday afternoon after a motorist traveling on I-93 between Londonderry and Manchester called 9-1-1 to report a woman "shooting up" heroin while a passenger in a moving car.

State Police subsequently stopped a northbound 1995 Honda Accord in Manchester and the driver, Michael Hann, 26, of Belmont was placed under arrest for transportation of controlled drugs in a motor vehicle.

Police say they found fresh needle marks and blood on the right arm of one of Hann's passenger, Shannan Landry, 27, of Laconia. After a brief roadside investigation, she was charged with possession of heroin.

The other passenger was identified as Arielle Glazier, 22, of Wolfeboro. Police say she was sitting on a small plastic bag containing heroin and, later, tried to hide an uncapped needle between the seat cushions in a police cruiser. She was charged with falsifying physical evidence, a felony-level offense.

Hann and Blazier were later released from custody on bail. They are scheduled to appear in Manchester Circuit Court on June 8.

Landry refused bail and was placed on 72-hour hold by N.H. Probation and Parole. She was due to be arraigned in Manchester Circuit Court on Friday.


Last Updated on Saturday, 28 March 2015 12:43

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Lakeport couple wants pet rooster to be excepted from poultry ban in residential areas

LACONIA — Two years ago the Planning Board scuttled a zoning proposal to allow residents to keep small flocks of laying hens, but now the chickens have come home to roost at the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which next month will weigh a family's request for a variance from the city ordinance in order to keep their pet rooster — "Pecker" – in their Lakeport home.

Jeff and Bridgette Leroux of 58 North Street applied for the variance after a neighbor's complaint brought the presence of the rooster to the attention of City Hall. Kris Snow of the Planning Department said that she informed the Lerouxs that the zoning ordinance forbids the keeping of chickens in residential districts and advised them they would have to forego the rooster or request a variance from the regulation.

In the application, Bridgette Leroux wrote that her husband purchased the rooster at the Sandwich Fair last year. She wrote that he was not aware of the prohibition against chickens since he bought his mother a rooster some 25 years ago, which she also raised as a pet in the city. Although "Pecker" has a cage, she said that he has the run of the house, where "he gets along with our dogs and cat . . . doesn't do any damage to the property and doesn't harm anyone." She emphasized that the rooster leaves no odor and, because he is seldom outdoors, makes no noise.

Above all, Leroux stressed her family's affection for "Pecker". "We hold him, snuggle with him, give him kisses just like any other pet," she wrote. "To tell you the truth," she continued, "he helps us emotionally and we would like to keep him as part of our family." She said that she doubts "Pecker" would be safe elsewhere. We would be crushed if we had to get rid of him," she wrote. "He wouldn't survive and it scares me to think what could happen. I cry just thinking about it." ,

Snow said the department has had only one complaint about the rooster from a neighbor who said he was disturbed by his crowing.

The ZBA will consider the Lerouxs' request for a variance at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, April 20.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 March 2015 12:35

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Belknap officials looking to Sullivan County for model that drastically reduces recidivism

LACONIA — A key reasons why Belknap County Commissioners have decided to seek bids from architectural firms for a schematic design for a so-called community corrections facility is the success a similar program has had in Sullivan County (Claremont), which saw the recidivism rate drop to 17 percent, compared to a 74 percent rate before the facility was built and related new programs put in place.
Ross Cunningham former Sullivan County Superintendent of Corrections, who is now assistant corrections superintendent in Merrimack County, told commissioners when they met Tuesday that it required ''a leap of faith'' for the county to make the transition away from a conventional jail to a new philosophy of community corrections.
Cunningham, who worked with Kevin Warwick, president of Alternative Solutions Associates, Inc., to develop a community corrections program for Belknap County, said that while serving as head of the Sullivan County Corrections Department he and other county officials made 40 to 50 presentations around the county before the program was approved.
The project, which is the first of its kind in the state, represents a new direction in the handling of inmates for the county as it concentrates efforts and resources on re-entry instead of incarceration, according to Cunningham. He says that Sullivan County officials first discussed plans to improve facilities and programming in 2005, following a study that revealed more than 80 percent of inmates booked into the county jail required some form of treatment programming.
Sullivan County officials ditched plans for a new $38 million county jail in 2008 and opted instead to build a $5.6 million community corrections facility.
The 72-bed Sullivan County Community Corrections Center is a 20,000-square-foot facility which was built adjacent to existing county jail in Unity in 2009. The center has 32 treatment beds, 16 work release beds and 24 beds for female offenders.
Sullivan County also spent $1.3 million on renovations at the county jail, which holds up to 100 inmates.
The corrections center provides work-release opportunities and a focus on treatment and programming for inmates close to release, and is designed to better help inmates transition back into the community.
''I'm a believer in this kind of approach because I've seen then results it produces,'' said Cunningham, who says that a supervised transition back into the community produces better results for both the released inmates and the communities they return to.
''It's a partnership with local law enforcement and the service providers which can provide dramatic reductions in long term costs.'' says Cunningham.
More than $1.8 million in grants were received by the county between 2009 and 2012 which helped pay for the programs offered at the community corrections center, according to Cunningham, who said staffing for the Sullivan County Department of Correction was 35 to 37 people in 2008 before the project broke ground and has gradually increased to 55 staffers as of last year.
Warwick, who is a nationally recognized expert on corrections programming and served as a consultant for the Sullivan County project, provided information to the Belknap County Commissioners which showed only a 17 percent recidivism rate for Sullivan County for those who has completed the TRAILS (Transitional Re-entry and Inmate Life Skills) program compared to 51 percent for the New Hampshire Department of Corrections and 52 percent for Carroll County.
Warwick also pointed out that the average prison population in Sullivan County has been consistently lower than projected since the center opened, with 100 actual in 2009 compared to an estimate of 123, 99 actual in 2010 compared to an estimated 128, 105 in 2011 compared to an estimated 132, 110 in 2012 compared to an estimated 138 and 106 in 2013 compared to an estimated 143.
He told Belknap County Commissioners Tuesday that ''doing nothing is not an option. Your situation if it remains as it is, will cause serious problems for the county.''
Commissioners voted that evening to seek proposals from architectural firms to develop a schematic plan for a proposed 64-bed community corrections facility as recommended by the consulting firm. The plan they presented would see 30 treatment beds, 20 for men and 10 for women, and 34 work release beds, 24 for men and 10 for women. The new facility would be built next to the current jail and connected to it through a newly created control room. It would have 22,327-square-feet and a suggested addition which would include a small 2,500-square-foot gym, 1,500-square-feet of administrative space which would bring the total space to just over 27,000-square-feet.

Last Updated on Saturday, 28 March 2015 01:44

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