From policeman, to selectman, to local shopkeeper
Bill Lally is the new owner of Lighthouse Groceries
By Liz Premo
Hampton Union, May 14, 2013
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON BEACH — There's a big chalkboard on the wall at Lally's Lighthouse Market on Ocean Boulevard, and tucked among the list of daily specials and deli offerings is a message telling all who come through the door to "Smile! You're at the beach!"
Smiling seems to come easily to proprietor Bill Lally, who bought the business from former owners Todd and Jean Loiseau just over a year ago on April 6, 2012.
"I was looking for something new and different when this came up," Lally said. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
It still seems that way, and with a helpful staff that increases to about 10 during the summer months, Lally and his wife Sandy are riding the wave of what appears to be a successful Hampton Beach business venture.
"It's fun," he smiled. "We enjoy doing it."
Lally's ownership of the market came to be when he wrapped up eight years as the director of training for the Lowell, Mass. Police Department. Around that time, the federal and state grants that supported the training program were running dry and layoffs became the reality.
When the Loiseaus put the business up for sale, "I kind of jumped on it," said Lally, much to his wife's admitted shock and surprise.
Running a business is something Lally admits he had never done before but he appears to be up to the task.
"There's a lot to learn (and) I'm still learning. You kind of have to learn as you go," he said, adding that Jean Loiseau stayed on board the first three weeks after the sale to give Lally some assistance. "She guided me through the whole process." Former owner John Fitzpatrick also offered advice early on.
Residents probably know Lally best from his two terms as a Hampton selectman and his 28 years with the town's Police Department, serving in both full- and part-time positions within the force.
He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1998, and before retiring in 2002, he had dedicated half of his law enforcement career as a detective. He currently works three days (about 20 hours) each week as the truant officer at Winnacunnet High School.
"That's a good job," he said. "I enjoy (working) with the staff, and the kids are good."
Lally balances his time at WHS with his hours at the market, starting early morning and taking several hours off mid-day before returning to work at about 2:30 p.m., minding the store until the doors close for the evening.
He's there all day Monday, and with the exception of Sundays he arrives at 6 a.m. to get things "up and running," making coffee and breakfast sandwiches before the doors open. The day ends at 7 p.m., though in a couple of weeks closing time will be at 9 p.m. During the summer months, the market stays open until 11:30 p.m.
Not surprisingly, it's his local customers at Lally's Lighthouse Market who have supported him during the off-season and helped him make his first year an overall successful one.
"I see a lot of local people year-round. If it wasn't for (them) coming in this winter, (I) might as well have closed down," he said. "The regulars come in the morning, have their coffee, talk town politics and fix all the problems in the world, so that's good."
As far as what he stocks at the store, Lally said "We have a little bit of everything — from beer and chips, to brake fluid, to peroxide and shampoo, we've got everything."
That includes an extensive variety of beverages such as soft drinks and sport beverages, snack foods, household items, candy and ice cream, personal care products, stationery, newspapers, lottery tickets, a postage stamp machine and an ATM.
Fresh doughnuts are trucked in each morning from a bakery in Biddeford, Maine, and there are different kinds of self-serve coffee available. In the summer there are beach chairs, Frisbees, sunglasses and boogie boards for sale.
Then there are the hot, homemade "comfort foods" on the menu that have become very popular with customers and are made in the tidy kitchen that's situated right on the premises.
"Sandy started making lunches, and that caught on like wildfire," he said, listing his wife's chicken soup (made with a total of four chickens in every batch), homemade chili and banana bread as quick sellers. "She really enjoys the cooking," he added (although Sandy admits selling real estate and traveling "is really where my heart is at. But it's fun; I love all the people, the locals are really nice.")
Lally has high praise for all of his crew, which includes students from WHS and UNH, including Dalton Royal, a UNH junior who stayed on as store manager when the business changed hands.
"He's terrific," said Lally. "If he hadn't stayed here (and) worked all winter, I'd be in big trouble."
Lally also depends upon Diane Glynn for her expert sub sandwich-making, and John Muro, who makes the commute from Medford, Mass., in order to open and run the store all day Sunday.
"He's been here forever," Lally said. "It's a tough business — you have to be there all the time. It's a big commitment. I'm lucky I have good people working here."
Lally is already planning ahead and preparing for the summer months, when extra racks of products will be added inside, and tables and chairs will be set up outside on the sidewalk.
"This place really transforms in the summer. A lot of people like to sit out there in the sun," he said, adding that canine customers passing by with their owners have access to water bowls that stay filled throughout the day.
As the Lallys look ahead to an upcoming family milestone — son Mike, 23, is about to graduate with a degree in audio engineering from the Art Institute of Boston and daughter Lisa, 25 has a graphic arts degree from the same school — Bill Lally is also looking ahead to a future as a Hampton Beach business owner.
"We're going forward and trying to make it work," he said, again with that broad smile. "You keep your nose to the grindstone and keep it going."
Lally's Lighthouse Market is located at 369 Ocean Blvd. on Hampton Beach. For more information call 926-6847.