Max Sullivan, Portsmouth Herald
HAMPTON — The beach’s only gas station is under new ownership as the iconic Patriot’s Corner store and plaza has a new owner in local entrepreneur Al Fleury.
Fleury, who owns Wally’s Pub, The Goat, Bernie’s Beach Bar and other businesses, has signed an agreement to purchase the complex and is expected to close in the next week or two. He said he plans to keep the store, its upstairs apartments and relationship with current tenants the same.
“We try to make everything we buy a little bit nicer and newer,” Fleury said. “And I’m sure we’ll do that.”
The complex, which includes other shops like the Coffee Break Café, went up for sale earlier this year for $3.3 million. Fleury said he wanted to take it over to continue his trend of buying beach properties with a vision of improving Hampton’s tourist industry.
Al Fleury, who is buying Patriot’s Corner store and gas station on Ocean Boulevard at Hampton Beach, is seen with Catherine Roy, the new manager, Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
“This is a special building, like a lot of other beach properties,” Fleury said, “Because Hampton Beach is special the way it is.”
Patriot’s Corner’s store and plaza spans two lots at 23-25 Ocean Blvd. and 27-29 Ocean Blvd. and also includes a laundromat, MomoYo Ramen and Sabo’s Subs.
The store Patriot’s Corner has been in business for 40 years, serving tourists in the bustling summer but also locals who live year-round at the southern end of the beach.
The property has been owned by Owen Carter since the 1980s and was previously owned by Russell Preston, the brother of longtime senator Robert Preston Sr.
Fleury said he learned Patriot’s Corner was up for sale shortly after it was listed.
“There were rumblings,” Fleury said. “I just inquired early, was able to work with Owen and make a deal.”
For Fleury, the purchase is sentimental in that he has enjoyed Coffee Break Café for years. He said he once brought his young daughter there regularly before he and his wife opened another coffee shop and smoothie place, the Green Room on Ashworth Avenue.
Fleury is trusting longtime member of the beach business community Catherine Roy to take the helm at the store Patriot’s Corner. She owns both the Marguerite Motel and Atlantic Motel and has also run the store located at another property owned by Fleury.
Al Fleury, who is buying Patriot’s Corner store and gas station on Ocean Boulevard at Hampton Beach, with seen with Catherine Roy, the new manager, Tuesday, May 16, 2023. They are planning improvements to the property.
“She’s a local and she’s a hard worker,” Fleury said.
Roy said there are some ideas in the works for the store under new management but that it will mostly stay the same as it has been for decades.
“It does well already,” Roy said. “It’s a very popular store. I think there isn’t anything we need to change right now, but we look forward to making it our own.”
Patriot’s Corner joins a list of properties purchased by Fleury since he first took over Wally’s in 2005. He turned the former La Bec Rouge into the popular Bernie’s Beach Bar and is credited with starting a trend toward outdoor patios and a shift away from basement bars in Hampton. He has also opened several Goat locations beyond his first location on L Street, taking the country bar to Portsmouth, Manchester and most recently Newburyport, Massachusetts, which is on the verge of opening.
Fleury said he has a list of projects to get to once Newburyport is finished. He recently purchased the former Ear Craft Music in Dover and said that the building is likely going to be hospitality-driven as well, though he said he is about a year away from opening anything there. The Goat features live music, and he said Dover’s downtown could use an additional music venue.
“I think there’s a need for live music in Dover. It’s big enough where we could do a larger version of what we do in Portsmouth,” Fleury said.
Other items on the list include a 92-unit residential complex he plans to bring to the former Webber Antiques property on Route 1, which will also include a hotel and space for a store or café. He said he will be going through the application process with the Planning Board later this year, having presented preliminary designs to the board last fall. The project would also merge the Webber property with lots on High Street and Dearborn Avenue.
Al Fleury has bought Patriot’s Corner store and gas station on Ocean Boulevard at Hampton Beach.
“I think people are going to like what we’re doing to that one,” Fleury said. “It’s probably the biggest one I’ve ever done, so it’s exciting.”
He also has been planning a tequila bar and Mexican restaurant called Lucho’s at a property on L Street that Fleury has temporarily shelved to focus on other work. He said that will take at least a year to get to as well, though he described it as a “passion project.”
While Fleury expands throughout the area, Roy said he continues to do good work in Hampton to preserve it as a thriving vacation spot. She said he has helped in preventing condo developers from snatching up properties and turning them residential, and she believes Patriot’s Corner is another chapter in that story.
“He has the beach’s best interest at heart,” Roy said. “The beach needs someone like him, with people like him, to continue to improve it in the right way.”