Pitman's Freight Room finding it's way as a live entertainment venue

The LACONIA DAILY SUN, Friday, January 18, 2013 Page 13

By Michael Kitch


LACONIA – Among the antiques and mementos arrayed around Pitman's Freight Room is a black-and-white photograph of the Drolet Family of Entertainers of Short Falls, New Hampshire taken in 1935. “That's my mom and dad,”said Dick Mitchell, the owner of the venue, pointing to a handsome woman cradling a fiddle and a tall man behind a bass drum. “They're here,” he remarked softly, “and they like what's happening.”

Although no longer home to the New Hampshire Jazz Center, which summer moved out to the Margate Resort on Paugus Bay, the rustic one-story building along New Salem Street still fills with music, laughter and fellowship as bands and comedians take the stage on weekends and weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and other occasions are celebrated at their appointed times. We're just going forward.” Mitchell said, “it's going to morph into what ever it is without having to push in any direction, but just taking the path of least resistance.

Built in 1890 by the Pitman Hosiery Company as a freight depot, the building has enjoyed nearly as many lives as a cat, the last two in the 25 years since Mitchell and his wife Connie purchased the property in 1988. Until 2009, it housed an antique business, remnants of which grace the most recent incarnation as an entertainment venue and function hall.

The pie shaped building provides 3,800 square feet of open space, including a 750 square-foot pentagonal dance floor, served by three restrooms and a residential kitchen. Open to various configurations, the space, which is defined by vintage barn and roof boards and the original posts and beams, offers seating to as many as 250 people.

Above all, Mitchell, a devotee of live music – especially jazz and blues- stressed the acoustics. “This is a listeners' venue,” he said. “Every seat is within 30 feet of the stage and there are no TV screens or waitresses. Bands like to play here,” he continued. “They're not playing background music at a bar or restaurant. Once they've been here, they all want to come back..”

Last year New Hampshire Magazine named Pitman's Freight Room the “Best Unlikely Jazz Venue” in the state.

Mitchell said that he is booking jazz combos. Mostly on Thursdays, and blues bands, mostly on Friday, as well as comedy acts once a month. He said that since the opening of the Purple Pit in Concord the two venues have shared bookings and promotions to form something of a jazz and blues circuit between the Capitol and Lakes Regions.

'It's a hidden gem,” Mitchell said of the space he created with the sole aim of sharing its charm with others.