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Burst water pipe closes Wolfeboro landmark for a month

DONNA RICO (left) and Cindy Patten, owner of Black’s Gift Shop and Paper Store, have been working hard since Sunday to clean out and sort through the store’s first floor goods, both damaged and undamaged to prepare for restoration. Patten expects the store to remain closed for at least a month. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
December 30, 2010
WOLFEBORO — Cindy and Chris Patten heard what sounded like Niagara Falls as they approached their store, Black's Gift Shop and Paper Store, on Main Street in Wolfeboro around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 26. To their dismay, they discovered a pipe had burst in the second floor ceiling setting off an unhappy chain of events, culminating in closure of the popular store for at least a month.

The two immediately entered the building, shut off the water and called the police, who notified the water department.

On Tuesday morning, standing in the sunny front room of the store, surrounded by empty gift card racks and stripped down flooring Cindy, looking up at the now exposed pipes, pointed out the corroded joint that "let go" and released a flood of water all the way down to the basement.

She explained that the water short-circuited the low water alarm for the steam furnace, which responded by pulling water into the system. Pressure released through the radiators on the first floor and steam quickly soaked the floor.

When Tom O'Dowd, a daily 6 a.m. customer for years and owner of Avery Insurance, walked in that Sunday morning, he recommended his son Tod O'Dowd as just the man for the job, a suggestion that Cindy said has since given the couple great relief. She expressed appreciation for the supportive response of other downtown neighbors, too, saying, "Hunter's IGA sent doughnuts and the [Wolfeborough] diner sent coffee. People have been wonderful."

She complimented her staff as well. They came in and worked side by side with employees of Reliable Restoration and Recovery. "Dennis Cushing [the owner of Reliable] said I have a fantastic staff," she said proudly, tearing up. "This is their store."

Recovery efforts are extensive and it will take time to order and restock shelves, so Patten estimates it will be at least a month and maybe more before the store will be able to reopen. She says she had begun updating the lighting in one section of the store and the current devastation presents an opportunity for a new energy saving configuration and maybe a redesign of the basement taking into account the possibility of any future flooding accidents.

She's maintaining a positive attitude to keep everyone's spirits up. She does admit letting down her guard at home among family, but right now, Patten is showing resilience. "Maybe it's a Yankee thing," she says with a smile.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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