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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ken Jones Ski Mart is moving, will change its name

NASHUA – Renaming a well-known business is tough. Moving a well-known business is tough.

Ken Jones Ski Mart’s Nashua store is about to do both at once. ...

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NASHUA – Renaming a well-known business is tough. Moving a well-known business is tough.

Ken Jones Ski Mart’s Nashua store is about to do both at once.

“It’s hard to move a location and change the name at the same time,” said Jeff Proctor, who for 30 years partnered with the late Nashua ski legend Ken Jones in the business that bears Jones’ name.

Ken Jones died in April, at age 86. The company’s Manchester store will continue to be owned by his family and will keep that name, but within a year, Proctor has to change the name of the Nashua store, now that he and his wife Marilyn have bought out Jones’ share.

“Ken was clear: If there’s not a Jones in the business, you shouldn’t use the name,” Proctor said.

Proctor, of Litchfield, is moving the ski and snowboard shop about a mile north of its longtime Spit Brook Road home to a long-abandoned former shoe store, and plans to open by mid-August. After the upcoming winter season, the name will transfer into Proctor Ski and Board.

“I think we can make this a great family place,” said Proctor, taking a break Monday from working on the site.

The log-cabin building at 195 Daniel Webster Highway was built as a Dexter Shoe store in 1982, but has been vacant for 6 or 7 years. Except for broken windows (all of them are boarded up), the building’s in pretty good shape, although the 2-acre lot needed lots of work.

“We cleared out tons of trees and bushes – there’s surprising visibility,” he said, gesturing from atop the small hill toward La Hacienda restaurant and Funworld on the other side of Daniel Webster Highway. Louisburg Square Apartments share the store’s entryway.

Ken Jones Ski Mart was started in 1968 out on Amherst Street by Jones, known in local ski circles for having owned the former Indian Head Ski Area in Pepperell, Mass. Proctor became Jones’ partner in 1984, and they moved to the upper story of a building on Spit Brook Road, near the road’s intersection with Daniel Webster Highway.

The shop has been there three decades, sitting atop what was first D.B. Cooper’s and then a Hooter’s restaurant, and currently is 2 Guy Cigars.

The shop flourished during the ski boom of the 1970s, when almost every town had its own ski hill, and survived as the industry contracted in the 1980s when insurance and snow-making costs crippled small- and mid-sized resorts. In recent decades, it has ridden the snowboard resurgence and the renaissance of southern New Hampshire skiing, with the rebirth of Crotched Mountain and growth of Pats Peak and Mount Sunapee ski areas.

The latter is important because most of its business comes from the area, Proctor said. About 50 percent comes over the border from Massachusetts.

Proctor said parking was often an issue at the old store and described a recent disagreement with the cigar store about the ventilation system and smoke.

“We had to get out,” he said.

The move isn’t trivial: When all is said and done, Proctor estimated, it will cost almost $1.1 million to buy the property, buy Jones’ share of the business and move.

Considering that two years ago, the winter was notoriously snow-free and terrible for snow-sports business – Proctor, 69, calls it “the worst season in memory” – this is not a small undertaking. Proctor said that with the flexibility from extra parking, he may look into adding some sort of summertime business (although nothing involving bicycles, a warm-weather business often paired with snow sports, he said, because Goodale’s Bike Shop dominates that regional market).

In the meantime, despite the heat of mid-June, preparation for winter in a new location go on.

“I’ll be unpacking K2 snowboards tomorrow,” he said.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).