BARTLETT — The former Grand Manor building in Glen has been purchased by Stephen O’Farrell and Greg Vander Veer of the Christmas Loft/Tricks & Treats of North Conway for $1.2 million.
The sale, which closed May 28, includes the 20,000-square-foot building, onetime home to the Grand Manor Automobile Museum, as well as the adjoining 20 acres.
The sellers, David and Yvonne Mennella, used it as a distribution center for their Wooden Soldier children’s clothing mail-order business.
The sale was transacted by Greydon Turner and Linda Pinkham, both of Pinkham Real Estate of North Conway. The Mennellas were assisted by Peter Hastings of Hastings Malia of Fryeburg, Maine, Turner said, and the buyers by Ken Cargill of Cooper Cargill Chant law firm of North Conway.
Vander Veer and O’Farrell — who are married — said they plan to move the distribution center of their own businesses from North Woodstock to the new site.
Originally, the distribution center was in Jay, Vt., where the Christmas Loft was started.
Of the Grand Manor, “it’s a great building. We hope to start in there July 1,” said Vander Veer, son of Richard and Ronnie Vander Veer, who founded the Christmas Loft in their Vermont general store in 1980 and later expanded to other stores in 1984.
The Vander Veers originally housed their North Conway store in what is now Tricks & Treats, the business O’Farrell and Vander Veer opened in 2019 next to the larger building that Vander Veer’s parents constructed in 1995.
The Christmas Loft once operated seven stores in New England. Upon retiring, Ronnie and Richard sold off several, and now Stephen and Greg operate the one in North Woodstock and the one here, along with Tricks & Treats, a seasonal costume, novelty and ice cream shop.
For the distribution center, “we have already hired three people," said Greg Vander Veer.
"We were worried because. with the local unemployment situation we feared we would not be able to find enough help," he said.
"But maybe people are looking for a change, because this is a distribution center with regular Monday-Friday hours, so people looking to get out of the hospitality industry I guess are attracted to this,” he added.
O'Farrell, who is originally from Ireland and met Vander Veer when they both lived in New York City, said: "We really want people to see that this will be a different kind of place to work. It's going to offer a nice work environment."
Vander Veer and O'Farrell said the company’s online sales have increased dramatically over the past COVID-19 year, with O’Farrell concentrating on online sales.
“It has really taken off. That is why we are doing this,” said Vander Veer, said of buying the larger distribution center.
"It's doubled every year," said O'Farrell.
Vander Veer said he they plan to convert the upstairs former car museum manager’s living quarters into office space.
Vander Veer and O'Farrell agreed that the property has much potential.
"The way I look at it is that we are all just stewards of any property, and it's ours to take care of it now for a while," said O'Farrell, who formerly worked for New York's famed Carnegie Hall. Vander Veer previously worked as an independent documentary producer.
“We plan to do some fixing up to the building and grounds, which include a pond on site," said Vander Veer.
"We need to replace the roof, for instance. But as building consultant Shawn Bergeron (of Bergeron Technical Services of Conway) said, it’s a great building with ‘good bones.’ We’ll be able to move operations right in," he said.
"We have even discussed the possibility of adding some sort of workforce housing down the road, so there is a lot of potential,” said Vander Veer.
Located across Route 16 from the Sport Thoma, the imposing building with brick and stucco facade was erected in 1983 and operated as a car museum from 1985-93, according to Frank Jost, former museum curator, now an employee of the Appalachian Mountain Club at its Pinkham Notch Visitor.
The Grand Manor was sold to the Mennellas in the early '90s by the late Vincent Barletta of Roslindale, Mass.
“Vincent owned some of the cars; they came from a variety of sources. It evolved over the years to also feature other vehicles,” said Jost.
The vehicles included a 1931 Dusenberg, 1930 V-16 Cadillac, 1956 Gullwing Mercedes and the hot rod from the "Happy Days" TV show.," he said.
"We also had the ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ movie car and Christine, from the Stephen King movie of the same name,” said Jost, who co-managed the museum with his wife, Beth.
The Mennellas in February sold another former Wooden Soldier building, the adjacent catalog store, to Stan and Maryellen Szetela of Glen for $660,000.
Turner and Linda Pinkham also transacted the sale of that 17,000-square-foot wooden structure, which included 5.9 acres.
The Szetelas own a masonry business and Arthur’s Memorials of Redstone. They are currently renovating the former Wooden Soldier building. At the time of the sale, Szetela said he was considering a mixed use for the building to possibly include retail, office space and apartments.
In the past, according to local Badger Realty agent Norman Head, it was operated as the Crystal Hills Inn and then as the House of Color, a gift and curio shop before being purchased by the late Robert Bramble of Jackson.
“Bob wanted to raze it and build something new at the same location but Bartlett zoning required them to retain at least one original wall so he did when he renovated it. He sold it to the Mennellas,” said Head, who a Bartlett Historical Society member.
The Mennellas, Turner said, have phased out their business, but the Wooden Soldier stillmaintains a website, woodensoldier.com.
They continue to own the Kearsarge Road retail store property across from Hooligans in North Conway Village.
Turner said he believes the Mennellas closed down the retail and distribution center in Intervale “approximately two years ago.”