October 1st, 2008Still going strong: Sundial Shop celebrates 35 years and counting by John Koziol
New Hampshire — Thirty five years ago today, a self-described “snot-nosed kid from Massachusetts” and his wife opened the Sundial Shop, a card and gift store that has become a mainstay of Laconia’s downtown.
While not predicting a second consecutive 35-year run, Warren Clement said he and his wife Martha are committed to their Main Street business, which, like Laconia, has seen its share of ups and downs.
For Clement, who grew up in Woburn, Mass., coming to Laconia and opening the Sundial Shop was an opportunity to return to his familial stomping grounds. Clement’s grandfather was born in the city, as were several of his aunts and uncles.
“We started (the Sundial Shop) with two part-time people and Martha and I and over the years it grew,” said Clement, “and then it shrank.”
There are currently Sundial shops in Laconia and Gilford and up until a year or so ago, there was also a store in Meredith.
“We’re still selling cards, gifts and books but over the years we added a video section and it had a life,” said Clement. “Currently, we still have the bakery and we do muffins and cookies and we’ve been making our own fudge since 1986. In 1993, we added the J.C. Penney Catalog Store.”
At its height, the Sundial Shop was a major employer in Laconia.
“When the economy has changed, we’ve changed with it. Back in the 1980′s we had 55 employees, now we have 19,” said Clement, who is as well-known in Laconia for his blunt honesty as he is for his wicked sense of humor.
Clement was a co-founder of the Laconia Main Street program — which since 2004 has worked to revitalize the downtown economically while preserving its history — and he continues to serve as an elected member of the Laconia Police Commission.