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Norwich - A familiar face not seen in months in downtown Norwich returned last week to take care of some unfinished business.
Harry Lawson, owner of H&L Place at 88-90 Main St., closed the store and sandwich shop last year that had been a mainstay in downtown Norwich for 22 years and moved to North Carolina.
Lawson, 72, put the "closed" sign on the door without fanfare in November and left without even turning off the flashing neon "ATM O-P-E-N" sign in the window. He left dried-up plants in the window and goods on the shelves and tables and chairs where attorneys and other downtown workers routinely sat for lunch.
Lawson has returned to clean out the store and get his building ready to be placed on the market for sale. He said he can't be nostalgic about the move, because the warmer weather is good for his health, and he and his wife, Elizabeth Bessette, have moved to the town where her two sisters live, Taylorsville, N.C.
He opened a new antiques and collectibles store there called Two Sisters.
"It's doing well," he said.
Throughout his years in Norwich, Lawson was a frequent critic of the many plans touted as the answer to downtown's woes. He would laugh when business owners said they couldn't stay open into the evening hours, keeping his store open late into the night for downtown residents who worked off hours at the casinos or other places and needed groceries or a quick bite to eat.
He also ran Lawson's Discount Store on Main Street for 14 years, selling an odd combination of collectibles, household items and concrete lawn statues he made himself with molds and cement equipment in the basement.
While walking through the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park Thursday morning and watching the arrival of two Verdin Bell Co. tractor-trailer trucks carrying equipment to cast the city's Emancipation Proclamation Bell, Lawson said he sees some improvements.
He noticed that the Marina at American Wharf has received a face-lift. New owner, Joyal Capital Management LLC, repainted the buildings and sanded and restained all the woodwork. He liked the new ice cream shop the marina owners built adjacent to Brown Park.
Lawson was surprised to see that the replica schooner Amistad was making its first visit to Norwich.
"There are some positive things happening in Norwich," he said.