MANCHESTER, NH – For more than 100 years, Still’s Tractor and Nursery has anchored the intersection of Mammoth and Candia streets. Generations of farmers, gardeners and landscapers in Manchester. and residents were regular customers.
When Charles P. Still came to Manchester to work on Aaron Marshall’s farm in 1879, the cross between Mammoth and Candia was mostly farmland. After a few years Charles Still became the owner of the farm and settled down with his wife Etta and their daughter Rose.
Its location at the intersection of the main Boston and Massabesic Lake roads made it an ideal location for commerce. Still’s became the place where hay and fodder for horses and other livestock was gathered. Charles P. Still also worked as a stonemason.
How does a family business survive five generations? By being adaptable.
Instead of selling hay, they now specialize in selling and repairing lawn mowers and other garden equipment. And while the Mammoth Road site was a great place to sell hay in 1900, heavy traffic and tight parking lots made it difficult for their landscaper clients to maneuver in and out of the site.
Still’s has been one of them since 2007 lawn depot. That year they joined forces with Salem based Granz Power Equipment to form the new company which currently has stores in Hooksett, Salem, Londonderry and Portsmouth. Members of the Still family continue to play an important role in the running of the company.
Last year they moved most of their business from Mammoth Road to the Hooksett store.
Joe Chevalier, who has been married to Charles P. Still’s great-great-granddaughter Laurie since 1969, says the decision wasn’t easy, but as landscaping equipment has gotten bigger and longer, they just needed more space . The Mammoth Road repair shop is still in use, but mainly for overflow from other locations and there is no longer direct access for customers. He encourages people to call the service.
“We have customers who have been with us for generations and the move shouldn’t change that. We have a great pickup and delivery service,” said Chevalier.
“We renovated a building that used to be a print shop and Elks Club. Now we have plenty of space for parking and our showroom, and it’s only 5 minutes away from our old location. We even had space for a small cafe,” he added
The move to Hooksett isn’t the first time the business has undergone a gear shift in the last century. After World War I, Charles P. Still and his grandson, Charles Douglas Still, known as Charlie, began the transition from farming to horticulture and landscaping.
Charlie Still was born in 1893 to Rose Still Bean, daughter of Charles P. and Etta. In 1898 Rose died and Charles and Etta adopted young Charles Douglas and gave him the surname Still.
As a young man, Charlie Still worked part-time at Amoskeag Mills and enlisted in the army when the First World War broke out. When he returned, he married and settled down to raise a family. His obituary described him as having been in the nursery business since 1922.
The 1936 city directory lists:
(Charles D. Still) Nursery, Evergreen Shrubs (Perennials) Landscaping
While Still’s continued to sell hay, forage, and farm equipment, the surrounding farms gradually disappeared and were replaced by residential areas. Hundreds of homes were built in the area during the post-WWII construction boom. Still’s expanded to provide landscaping materials for builders and new homeowners. Beyond the small lot on Mammoth Road, Still’s planted several acres of shrubs on Cohas Ave.
In 1947 the company was renamed Still’s Tractor and Nursery in recognition of its growing business as a regional retailer of tractors and farm equipment. It was around this time that Don Still, who represented the next generation, was returning from his service in the Army during World War II and entering the business.
Charlie remained active until his death in 1973. When Joe Chevalier returned from serving in the US Air Force in 1971, it was Charlie Still who hired him as a part-time worker while he attended New Hampshire College, now SNHU. “He never let his age hold him back,” said Chevalier.
Charlie died in 1973 and his wife Janet and son Don took over the business. Janet also ran the Corner Cupboard Gift Shop. When Chevalier graduated from college, he decided to stay at Still’s. “I liked what I was doing and I saw that there were many opportunities to grow the business.”
Chevalier says he’s never been a big plant guy, so he decided to focus on the power equipment side of the business. In 1976 they changed the name to Still’s Power Equipment and became a dealer for Ariens, Snapper, Stihl and Simplicity equipment. Today they sell and repair all sizes of lawnmowers, chainsaws, hedge trimmers, snow blowers and all manner of outdoor power equipment.
Perry Chaloge, who manages Hooksett Turf Depot, began working at Still’s in the 1980s. He fondly remembers those days. “Dot Puchasz lived in the upstairs apartment and she called us when she had a fresh batch of cookies.”
While he has fond memories of the Mammoth Road location, he appreciates the extra space at the Hooksett location. “We have plenty of space for our customers who come with their landscaping equipment and we have space to do fun things like ours monthly car show,‘ Chalogue said. The next one will be on August 17th from 5pm to 8pm
50 years later, Joe Chevalier still goes to work every day in Turf Depot’s main store in Salem. He wonders how the business will continue to change. “Today we sell second-generation cordless mowers and in a few years we can expect robots to mow lawns and roadsides.”
As for the future, Chevalier’s daughter Kelly True is poised to step up when he retires. She is the great-great-great granddaughter of Charles P. Still and would be the 6th generation to lead the company. Their son Austin also works there part-time and may one day be the 7th generation.