Longtime Nashua fabric store moving to new location in Merrimack

NASHUA – After more than four decades in Nashua, the fabric store operated by Martin Ferman and his family is moving out of the Gate City, and Ferman is calling attention to the condition of the neighborhood that housed the West Hollis Street business on his way out the door.

“This neighborhood has really gotten so bad that you can’t expect people to come down here and spend big bucks on custom stuff because of the neighborhood,” Ferman said.

Ferman’s, located at 43 West Hollis St., Nashua, offers custom draperies and upholstery. The store has been in Nashua for 41 years, and was previously located on West Pearl Street.

It was previously operated by Joseph Ferman, Martin’s father. While the neighborhood has been good to the business, Martin Ferman said he hasn’t seen conditions in the Tree Streets improve for years, and he’s still hoping for a change.

Ferman stresses that his comments aren’t a knock against the area. At its core, Nashua’s downtown is an aging inner city. Police respond promptly when businesses call for assistance, Ferman said.

But Ferman believes he hasn’t seen much improvement in the character of the Tree Streets neighborhood. A mural Ferman authorized on the back of the building has been defaced repeatedly with graffiti, and some customers feel unsafe in the neighborhood.

“At the end of the day, this neighborhood is good, and it has been good to us, but my feeling is you just don’t see it improving.”

Ferman’s is relocating to 416 Daniel Webster Highway, Merrimack, inside a plaza that also houses The D.W. Diner. The new store is slated to open its doors by May 1.

The new 1,300-square-foot space will feature an on-site work room, but the business will no longer keep as many bolts of fabric on hand to showcase for customers. Ferman said the business will help customers choose fabrics from books of sample swatches.

The condition of the Tree Streets neighborhood isn’t the primary factor behind the move; plans are in the works to sell the building on West Hollis Street that houses the fabric store.

Vehicle traffic in the area remains steady; Ferman estimated that between 25,000 and 30,000 cars drive past the store each day.

But in the last six or seven years, Ferman believes regular customers have been turned off from returning because of a perception that the neighborhood is sliding backwards. Many customers in the market for custom window blinds or furniture upholstery would rather shop in the confines of a safe commercial hub, such as the shopping plaza in Merrimack, he said.

Ferman said the store has developed relationships with thousands of regular customers over the years, but those customers are placing smaller orders these days, and younger customers are proving harder to attract.

He speculates that some prefer to go to big-box locations, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot.

“If you’re going to get that $10,000 customer, they’re not going to the Tree Streets,” he said.

Joseph Ferman started the business in 1973, buying out a store in Leominster, Mass. and relocating to Nashua. The store moved to West Hollis Street in 1988

Over the years, Martin Ferman said the city has missed opportunities to revitalize the downtown core while investing resources in other commercial areas.

“I think that if the city made this neighborhood a priority it could definitely rebound,” he said.

Ferman suggested the city’s police should keep a closer watch on day-to-day activities in the Tree Streets and take proactive steps to ensure businesses are safe.

If funds were available, Ferman said he would recommend cleaning up West Hollis Street, removing graffiti in the area and putting in new sidewalks. Ferman said he would also like the city to encourage business owners to take pride in their property, and to put pressure on property owners to gut the empty buildings in need of rehabilitation.

Changing the composition of businesses in the area could also have positive impacts, he said. While there are several convenience stores on West Hollis Street, Ferman said a mix of other types of businesses – such as restaurants and retailers – would draw more foot traffic. He said tax breaks could provide an incentive to draw those businesses to the neighborhood.

Development could capitalize on the existing rail trail, which brings walkers and cyclists through the neighborhood. Ferman said forming a committee or Tree Streets alliance to study the issue could spur concrete improvements.

“I really do see a lot of potential for the area,” he said.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-
6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter