Joe Habersham collaborated with this report.
With a population of around 1.4 million people, New Hampshire is considered a relatively small state. Due to its position holding the first presidential primary, many presidential hopefuls travel to New Hampshire with a multitude of supporters, proving its political importance. Because of this, presidential candidates hold various events all around the state, working to garner support and votes to become their party’s representative in the general presidential election.
These events are often held in small businesses. Even without the candidate hosting their event directly inside one of these businesses, the sheer amount of traffic and publicity can affect a business’s bottom line.
Chuck Nemiccolo, the business manager of The Brothers’ Cortado in Londonderry, N.H., hosted Democratic candidate Dean Phillips on Friday, January 19. Nemiccolo was happy to do so. “As a business, any publicity that has all these cameras here is good business,” Nemiccolo said. “I’m not worried about making money instantly, but I am worried about surviving as a small business in the long run.” For some businesses, the primaries are exactly what they need to keep their professions alive.
Nemiccolo is planning on using the platform he obtained from this event to promote his business, but there were certain troubles when it came to hosting political candidates. Nemiccolo said, “We put out a post before releasing information that we were gonna do this… people thought that we had sided with some side.” While Nemiccolo wants it to remain clear that he does not take a side, some of the individuals in the area felt that this was a declaration of Nemiccolo’s political beliefs.
“As a business, we’re gonna back the people that come in here,” Nemiccolo added.
Nemiccolo also emphasized the need for open dialogue with political candidates in small settings, especially in intimate areas like his cafe. “I really wanted an open forum for the candidate,” he said. “We allow people to come in and hear something and maybe get a new perspective.”
Kendra Smith, the owner of Soel Sistas located in Nashua, N.H., hosted a meet and greet for Democratic candidate Marianne Williamson in her store on Sunday, January 21. Like Nemiccolo, Smith hosted Williamson to give candidates an open forum to speak with their supporters. Smith said, “I’ll be honest, we had [an event for] write-in Biden here yesterday. We had to see what people were offering and what they were saying and I wanted to learn more about her.”
These events typically bring in a large number of media members and patrons, however, this was not the case for either Soel Sistas or The Brothers’ Cortado. Their main intention was to provide spaces to foster democracy and understanding among New Hampshire voters.
Unlike both Nemiccolo and Smith, Heather Duclos is a server at Temple Street Diner in Nashua, N.H. The diner did not host any political candidates this election cycle, and that could have led to slower business. In Duclos’s words, “It’s not as busy as it normally is.” While she normally sees an influx in customers and business when the primaries arrive, she feels that there is less of a commotion this year.
Judi Window, a co-owner of Diz’s Cafe located in the heart of Manchester, also noticed the lack of commotion for this year’s primaries. “We have been doing the primary every four years and it is extremely slow this year. There’s nobody here in comparison to what has been for the past years,” Window said.
Window believes that technology is the leading cause for the shift in attitude toward New Hampshire’s primaries. She said, “Over the past four to eight years, specifically, think about the change in technology… Now it’s simply tiny little cameras or your phone.” Window says that the ease and simplicity of technology have made politics more accessible to consumers. What is stopping someone from watching a live stream from their living room couch instead of watching a large media production from New Hampshire’s freezing cold?
While certain businesses in the area may not be suited for high foot traffic during the peak time of the primaries, the Red Arrow Diner is specifically known for seating politicians and celebrities.
Jennifer Ahearn, a Red Arrow Diner waitress, explains how this affects her job on a day-to-day basis. “You never know who is gonna walk through the door, whether it’s the primary or not,” she said. She remains generally busy; when not serving names like Ron DeSantis and Ru Paul, she has a set of Manchester regulars. Business is brisk at the Red Arrow.