Revitalization: Array of economic activity springs up in downtown Nashua
NASHUA – With one tapas bar recently opening on Main Street, and another eatery on the way that’s set to open at the end of May, a range of economic activity is springing up across the city as the winter season wears off.
With warm weather right around the corner, downtown Nashua already is blossoming with new businesses and restaurants. Some already have opened their doors, while others are working toward finalizing grand opening plans.
Small, savory, Spanish dishes known as tapas are taking over Main Street with the opening of Tostao’s Tapas Bar, located at 170 Main St.
Although they have not hosted an official grand opening, some area foodies already have flocked in to sample their varied menu items, which include calamari, camarones con tocineta (shrimp wrapped in bacon) and caprese bruschetta, to name a few. Menu items may change or be added while they get adjusted, the owner said, adding that the bar will be a destination for those wanting to partake in upscale and unique drinks.
“The meaning of tapa is small plate, so what we’re trying to do is small Latin plates, small plates, with the a Spanish touch on it, the Latin cuisine touch on it,” owner Jonathan Laureano said. “We’re trying to do a different style, and make it fancy but good.”
He and his wife, Paula Norena, have lived in Nashua for 22 years, and after Laureano tossed the idea around in his head for a few years, his wife finally agreed to go all in. He was born in Puerto Rico, and his wife was born in Colombia, and with that, their heritage influences the menu, However, they also offer fare like chicken wings, so that those with a less adventurous palate can ease into their offerings. It has always been a dream to open a bar for Laureano, and right now, he is tweaking things around and making slight changes to perfect everything for his patrons. Currently, a special drink menu is being developed, as well.
“My goal is good service and good food and good drinks,” Laureano said.
Paul Shea, executive director of Great American Downtown, said that fairly steadily, over the past three years, Nashua has seen vacant storefronts becoming occupied as more small businesses get their start downtown, explaining that this year has been no different.
“We’re nearly fully occupied, which is great to see,” Shea said.
In addition, in recognizing a lot of new concepts coming to downtown, he said it’s exciting and that it is driving people to the city for experiences, and to kind of get out their day-to-day grinds.
One of those he highlighted is Graffiti Paintbar at 143 Main St., and how they are a hybrid between a small bar and painting class destination. Another relatively new business that came to mind for Shea is Terragia, located at 100 Main St., which is a unique coffee shop that doubles as a plant nursery.
“It’s been really brilliant to see these creative concepts come to life, because that’s the kind of thing that consumers are looking for,” Shea said. “We kind of get caught up in the day to day and doing our jobs, and a lot of these activities feed the soul, and that’s really what the future of downtown Nashua is about.”
He said that in the years ahead, as the city executes on the Downtown Riverfront Master Plan and the performing arts center, people are going to see downtown become an even more vibrant place.
Echoing Shea’s thoughts, Tim Cummings, director of economic development for the city, has made similar observations, explaining that the city’s vacancy rate is low and commercial rents are starting to inch upward, which in his book is a positive sign. He said the city certainly has seen activity pick up in Nashua.
“This may mean we are starting to position ourselves to see new construction, which would be nice since there has not been a lot of major commercial construction projects since the Great Recession,” Cummings said.
In terms of just the first quarter of 2019, he said the city has seen a couple dozen jobs come into the marketplace. Currently, the unemployment rate is low, and Cummings said this means most people have jobs, although it’s the opportunity of getting a higher paying job that adds real value. He said the pressure on wages to increase is how Nashua will benefit and that the more jobs offering competitive wages is good for the region.
Another tapas-style eatery that is soon to employ people in downtown is Rhum Bar LLC. This restaurant and bar will be operating out of the former Fuego Bar and Grill, located at 138 Main St., but will reopen under new management. Owner Nelson Mercado said they are hoping to open their doors to the public by the end of May.
“It has smaller plates – tapas style – rum-style drinks, like Caribbean cocktails, basically specializing in those along with Carribean dishes from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Jamaica, a little bit from all over the Caribbean,” Mercado said.
He was born in Puerto Rico and was raised in Nashua, after moving here at 5-years-old. His older brother used to own Fuego, and said the restaurant is kind of in the family. He said this is something he and his partners have wanted for a long time. In addition, he plans to not only bring Caribbean cuisine and a rum bar to downtown, but also live music for different nights of the week, and “basically have a place where you can have the Caribbean 365 days a year.”
However, it’s not just restaurants opening up in the area, but other businesses, too.
Seasons Corner Market recently opened at 104 Canal St., across from BAE Systems.
Joanne’s Kitchen & Coffee Shop recently re-opened after a fire, and Pickers’ Paradise, an antiques store, is set to open at 100 Main St., Suite 2, on May 1.
Wok N Roll is a new Asian/Japanese restaurant that will open on Main Street in the coming month, serving all types of Asian cuisine, from Chinese to Japanese.
Panda Express, another Asian restaurant, is slated to open a new location on Daniel Webster Highway in South Nashua.
Ocean State Job Lot, who has a location in Nashua, recently expanded to Salem, with a grand opening on April 6.
A new Cumberland Farms convenience store will open near the CVS in Hudson, while Trader Joe’s grocery store opened there on March 29.
The Thirsty Moose Taphouse opened its doors on March 26 in Merrimack at 360 Daniel Webster Hwy, along with two other businesses in the area, Apichat and Tucker’s.
TaleSpinner Craft Brewery also will be opening on Factory Street in Nashua in the near future.