Tricks & Treats, the new Halloween-themed store on Route 16 in North Conway that was opened earlier this month by the owners of the Christmas Loft, is adding an ice cream shop with outdoor seating.
In addition to ice cream, Tricks & Treats sells costumes, candy, novelty items and greeting cards.
Work is expected to start soon on site improvements between Tricks & Treats and the adjacent Christmas Loft, as owners Greg Vander Veer and Stephen O’Farrell of Richard J. Vander Veer 1996 Trust received Conway Planning Board approval for the project at the board's Aug. 22 meeting.
The board unanimously ruled that the proposed changes were insignificant relative to the existing development and that a full site-plan review was not applicable for the improvements of the abutting lots at 2028 and 2050 White Mountain Highway because of the size of the project.
Vander Veer and O’Farrell received approval to construct a 252-square-foot deck, a 240-square-foot pavilion with a perimeter of paver stones and a shade structure, 28 outdoor seats and a 95-foot-long retaining wall.
Engineer Josh McAllister of HEB Engineers of North Conway represented the owners before the board.
“As I am sure you are aware,” McAllister said, “there is an ongoing development between the Christmas Loft and what formerly was Santa Fe North, which is now Tricks & Treats. There has been some exterior development happening, as well as some minor interior changes to create some opportunities that are accessory uses to the development.”
McAllister said there will be a slight decrease of 586 square feet in green space on the Christmas Loft property but an increase in green space of 250 square feet for the former Santa Fe North property, and so would not require full site-plan review.
He said the owners are looking to add a deck on one side of the former Santa Fe North, with some green space added between the two buildings on both properties. Additionally, he said, there will be a patio area with paver stones and a shade structure on the Christmas Loft property.
The ice cream service opened last weekend, serving Annabelle’s Ice Cream of Portsmouth inside Tricks & Treats. The owners plan to add a service window for outside patrons.
There will be four tables under the shade structure and two picnic tables with six seats each.
He said that the outside space will be used right up until Christmas, with the patio shoveled. It will serve hot chocolate and gourmet coffee throughout the winter.
In response to questions from board Chair Steve Hartmann, Town Planner Tom Irving said that given that the Christmas Loft and Santa Fe were developed in the 1980s, if the project were to undergo a full site-plan review, it would have probably triggered landscaping and parking waiver requests.
“Between the two properties, there will be an improvement,” McAllister said, concerning landscaping with shrubberies, which he said would “justify waiver requests if we were going through full site-plan review.”
Selectmen’s representative Steve Porter noted that the Christmas Loft site was once home to the Waffle Shop, later Studebaker’s, with a cabinet shop next door. He said he recalled working at the Waffle Shop in high school as a dishwasher, one of his first jobs. “I don’t think these changes will affect things very much at all; in fact, if anything, I think it will improve it,” Porter said.
Vander Veer said Tuesday that he and his partner/husband Stephen O’Farrell purchased the former Santa Fe North property and wanted to add something that complemented their Christmas Loft business. Tricks & Treats and the ice cream/coffee/hot chocolate business fulfills that goal, he said, while giving a tour of the new business.
Like the Christmas Loft, he says the new Halloween-themed business will offer an entertaining shopping experience, complete with animated talking skeletons, witches and the like: scary, but not too scary so that children of all ages can enjoy themselves.
“When we bought the store next door, we wanted to expand on the entertainment experience, bringing what we have done at the Christmas Loft over there,” said Vander Veer, as he gave Tuesday’s tour of the interior, which featured lights of hanging, glowing witch’s cauldrons, a talking skeleton seated at a sewing machine, wigs, fake beards and gag gifts.
The candy display has yet to be finished but will be in time for the Halloween season.
Outdoors, the view of the Moats across the valley was sensational on the clear day of the visit.
Vander Veer says a retaining wall will be built between the two properties along with the deck and shade structure.
Vander Veer is the son of Ronnie and Richard Vander Veer, who founded the Christmas Loft in Jay, Vt., in 1980.
“They had a loft in the country store they had started in the mid-1970s, and my mom decorated it for the holiday season. It grew from there,” said Vander Veer.
Ironically, the Christmas Loft originally was originally located in the building next door when it opened in 1984 — now home to Tricks & Treats.
Vander Veer’s parents designed and built the North Conway flagship Christmas Loft store in 1995 with the help of local architect Luigi Bartolomeo. “This was the crown jewel of everything they had envisioned,” said Vander Veer.
The company once operated seven stores in New England. Upon retiring, they sold off several in recent years and the company now operates two: one in Woodstock and the North Conway store.
Vander Veer says he and O’Farrell were happy to move from New York City to run the two stores.
Now, they have added the Halloween-oriented business.
"I think people will be entertained here when they stop. They will be able to take in the view, have ice cream or a hot chocolate/gourmet coffee and experience the fun at our two stores," said Vander Veer
The Christmas Loft and Tricks & Treats are open 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m. daily and 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.Sundays. For more information about the Christmas Loft and Tricks & Treats, call (603) 356-5253 or go to christmasloft.com.