In Portsmouth, business is looking up

Local businesses are optimistic about 2023, and have plans for improvements this year

By Jim McGaw
Posted 1/12/23

PORTSMOUTH — COVID-19 did a number on many local businesses, but nearly three years after the pandemic closed many shops and restaurants down, most of them have rebounded and are …

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In Portsmouth, business is looking up

Local businesses are optimistic about 2023, and have plans for improvements this year


PORTSMOUTH — COVID-19 did a number on many local businesses, but nearly three years after the pandemic closed many shops and restaurants down, most of them have rebounded and are cautiously optimistic about the future.

“Local businesses are slowly emerging from the effects of the COVID pandemic, but still are facing the impact of higher prices that have increased the cost of doing business and supply chain delays that inhibit them from delivering goods and services,” said Rich Talipsky, the town’s director of business development. 

“At the local level, we see a lot of home-based businesses emerging. This could be due to the cost of maintaining a ‘brick and mortar’ storefront but also due to the ease of doing business online. The local business outlook reflects the national picture and businesses may be cautious as they watch inflation in 2023 and hope for better times in 2024.”

We asked several Portsmouth businesses to share their thoughts on what 2023 holds for them, and what their customers can expect this year. Some of them also commented on what local and state government leaders can do to help them thrive. (Some answers are edited for space.)

Mike MacFarlane

Owner of Tremblay’s Bar and Grill, Blue Anchor Grill, and Thriving Tree Coffee House, all in Island Park

Things are going well and it feels like consumer trends are back to pre-pandemic levels. We expect an “up” year as the return to a normal social life resumes. Food, drink, and places to congregate bring people together. That’s how we make new friends and build on existing relationships.

The big change will come at Thriving Tree, when we open in the evenings with cocktails, light bites, music, and sunset views.

Since I bought Tremblay’s in 2016, the town has always supported everything that we have done while expanding our Hospitality Group. I’m extremely grateful for that. The state and federal governments did a lot to keep the restaurant industry going over the last three years. We appreciate the grants, funding, and loans. It’s hard to ask for more.

John Wood

Owner, The Green Grocer

How are things going? I get asked this question often from customers and friends. My two answers are they continue to be weird and that it’s been interesting. There are times where it seems like we can get back to something normal, like before COVID hit. But these times are still touched by complications in many areas like staffing, delivery challenges, supply chain issues and rising costs. People are eating out, with an energy to make up for lost time. In addition to that, they are on the go again, and as a result eating on the go. Grocery shopping and cooking at home is not a priority like it had been the last two years. 

For 2023 we are expecting an up year. The pandemic earned us a place of trust and reliability in people’s lives. It also gave people an opportunity to recalibrate their priorities around health. Nutritional supplementation is important for a good immune system and eating a whole food diet contributes to overall well being. We have some new commercials airing in our local area and are trying to get our name out there to be the go-to source for all things natural and organic. 

We are rolling back out all of our hot food options that have been absent since 2020. We have increased the number of prepared foods options for the health-conscious foodie on the go. Our biggest investment is in staff development, sending our team members to train with other natural foods stores, take part in industry trade shows and increase their knowledge.

One of my father’s favorite expressions was that he was getting “nickled and dimed.” Town, state and federal agencies often have multiple license requirements — fees to be paid in addition to paying the traditional taxes. It seems that we are experiencing new requirements on an ongoing basis and many of these overlap. Cleaning up all the fees, whether they be taxes, licenses, permits or whatnot, to make it easier for us to conduct business, would be a great thing. And to consider us their customers and look for ways to make doing business together something that we do cooperatively, versus in an adversarial atmosphere.

(As for new laws or regulations that present obstacles, there’s the) Hemp Growth Act, Rhode Island General Law 2-26-5, that requires licensing to handle, distribute or retail CBD products. This one blindsided us and we now have trusted brands that we cannot carry because they are not licensed within the state. It also means yet one more license for us to apply for and need to renew.

Matt Ponte

Spokesperson, Clements’ Marketplace

We are certainly looking towards some new and exciting things for 2023. We are planning to continue to evolve our new Nitro Corner, which offers on-tap nitro coffee and kombucha options. We currently partner with amazing local vendors like the Nitro Cart, Mike Shea’s Coffee and more. 

We are always looking to expand our selection of local products, which will continue to grow in 2023. We are also exploring some sustainability projects, which include charging stations, equipment improvements and solar power to help reduce our carbon footprint. 

We are also looking to build on some of our community enrichment programs, such as our staff-driven food bank donation and our community partners program. Growing our team is also a top priority in 2023, so if anyone is searching for a great opportunity, we have new positions available.

Craig L. Clark

Ocean State Air Solutions Inc.

Ocean State Air has had very good growth over the past few years. I am cautiously optimistic about the local economy. The new Inflation Reduction Act will provide additional rebates and federal tax credits for our customers, which will hopefully offset any potential downturn. 

We look forward to starting construction on our new building this spring, at 3076 East Main Road. We will hopefully move out of the “the old car wash” by fall 2023. This new facility will allow continued growth with a substantial training room and expanded warehouse to take advantage of bulk-buying opportunities.

Nancy Parker Wilson

Greenvale Vineyards

2022 has been a good year. Since the Tasting Room operation opened in 1999, our income has grown steadily thanks to great support from the town, the county and the state and some determination. We all were petrified by the surprise of COVID, but we were and are still able to weather that storm because so much of what we do is outside. 

We are a three-generation business on a six-generation farm and this third generation is coming up with great ideas to move us forward and, yes, social media is helpful. Plus, son Bill Wilson makes great wines, so we enjoy both our new friends and these delicious wines that Bill is producing from our estate-grown grapes. 

Looking ahead, we are very optimistic. We think the economy and our business, too, will survive the ups and downs we hear about. Though we might not get the far-away traveler, there are those of us who enjoy the staycations. I also think the “buy local” movement has taken hold and though the “dropped on your doorstep phenomenon is useful,” many of us appreciate what it takes to run a small business and will take the more traditional approach to shopping, eating out, and of course maintaining our homes, supporting local agriculture and supporting institutions that are so important to our community.

Dr. Seth Bock

CEO, Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center, Inc.

The Greenleaf Team is excited to continue the launch of recreational cannabis sales in our flagship Portsmouth location. The response thus far has been terrific. We have met so many local patrons shopping for cannabis in our store for the first time. They are surprised at the level of professionalism as well as the diversity and quality of our product menu compared to other nearby dispensaries. 

Despite challenges our national economy is facing, we expect growth throughout the year given our transition to adult-use/recreational sales. We don’t anticipate any major changes during this year, but are excited for the opportunity to expand our brand in the near future by bringing additional storefronts under our umbrella. 

Greenleaf has been very fortunate to have built a motivated and hardworking core of passionate team members. Over the past few years, many small and large businesses have struggled to build dedicated teams of hardworking individuals. It seems like federal stimulus, however necessary during a pandemic, has had negative ripple effects in the aftermath. Quality of service has dropped nationwide to a level I have not seen in my lifetime. Again, entitlement programs are necessary from time to time, but we are at a crossroads as a country. Personally, I do not believe it is up to the government to determine our future, but rather our citizens and the hard work we are collectively willing to do to build a better future. 

The cannabis industry is a robust growth sector, but it will certainly become more competitive moving forward and we look forward to the challenge of succeeding with the strength of our customer service and exceptional quality of our products. 

Max Essery

President/principal, East Coast Construction

ECC experienced another year of steady growth (80 employees now) and recently celebrated our 35th anniversary of business. Thank you to all our dedicated employees for helping us reach this milestone.

We are expecting to see steady work in the commercial and municipal sectors with slight cooling in the residential market considering current interest rates. Rising insurance premiums, health cost and fuel cost will be our biggest obstacles to overcome for 2023.

We have expanded our business – East Coast Disposal, clearing the way to possibilities with dumpster rentals for 10-, 15-, and 20-yard containers available for short- and longterm rentals. 

Komes Rozas

Flo’s Drive In

2022 was a very good season with the great weather and somewhat stable seafood prices. A brief shortage of clams due to some heavy rain up north, but a steady supply mainly due to many small clam shacks closing down due to lack of employees.

2023 will show increased prices, this time blamed on inflation and fuel prices. They always have an excuse! Our team is ready to go and both Flo’s plan on opening early in March.

The town has always been helpful and accommodating to Flo’s for many, many, years. My only suggestion would be that the town maintain a strong and firm relationship with the state with regards to Island Park flooding and unavailable beach access in areas. We wish everyone a “Happy as a Clam” New Year!

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