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Open Doors event works for businesses

Deanna O’Shaughnessy, who owns a spring water business in Alton, N.H., took part in last year’s Open Doors weekend. Deanna O’Shaughnessy, who owns a spring water business in Alton, N.H., took part in last year’s Open Doors weekend. (Jim Cole/ Associated Press)
By Kathy McCormack
Associated Press / October 31, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — Deanna O’Shaughnessy, who sells water from the springs on her farm, was scrambling to get her business going and managed to get her license just two days before last year’s “New Hampshire Open Doors’’ weekend, in which small business owners statewide showcase their products.

It was chaotic, but the timing of last year’s event — the first weekend in November — was fortunate.

“It brought people in and introduced us in a very concrete way,’’ she said. “I don’t think there could’ve been a better way to have our grand opening.’’

Since then, O’Shaughnessy and her staff of two in Alton have been able to grow Chamberlain Springs and market the water — called NH20 — in stores and supermarkets throughout the state. They are hoping for another boost from Open Doors this year, next Saturday and Sunday.

With the leaf-peeping season slowing down and a few weeks to go before post-Thanksgiving sales, more than 180 participants — artisans, shopkeepers, farmers, bed and breakfast operators, and winery owners — are seeking the attention of tourists and a jump on the holiday shopping season.

“The idea is to help give people an idea of what’s made out there, appreciate local-made items and hopefully make that kind of investment,’’ said Laurie Ferguson, executive director of New Hampshire Made, a nonprofit marketing and business-support organization promoting the state’s products. The group manages the event with the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.

It’s also an opportunity to meet the person behind the product, Ferguson said. “Some of these people don’t necessarily open up their studios to the public, but this weekend, they will.’’

Ferguson said some businesses in the past reported good turnout and lots of custom orders; others had fewer visitors. She said it depended on how much promotion the businesses themselves did, as well, and worked with others in the area. Some are so small, or the business owners work out of their home, off the beaten path, that they partner for showings.

“The people not only see the bed and breakfast, but they meet the jeweler and the wood carver and the author,’’ she said.

Visitors to the event’s website (http://nhopendoors.com) can plan their outings using an interactive map that lists participants by region. They can see whether the business will have any demonstrations or special offers, photos of the products, and details on location and directions.

Deborah Coffin and co-owner Julia Philipson recently started Moose Country Gourmet, which offers a selection of mustards, chocolate sauces, and fruit-infused syrups.

Coffin, who experiments with recipes at her Andover home were inspired by her father, who told her, “You really ought to bottle this stuff,’’ whenever he received a jar of her homemade mustard for Christmas.

She said standing out is always a challenge in the specialty-food market, so the pair came up with a catchy name and label and put out samples at farmers markets throughout the summer. She has partnered with local quilt shop to display the products.

“I think you really have to put yourself out there,’’ she said.

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