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AYER — It’s long been known as the Fletcher Building, where its namesake family ran a downtown Ayer retail clothing operation since the early 1900s.

A granite stone atop the four-story building façade at 49 Main St. reads the “Nutting” building, circa 1880. But the building stands as a pillar, too, of the Fletcher retail history and of an era gone by for downtown Ayer business.

In a December 2006 interview with the Ayer Public Spirit, four months before his death at the age of 81, store proprietor Richard Fletcher recalled a time when nearly all of life’s necessities could be bought on Main Street.

“Years ago, if you couldn’t find it on the Main Street of your town, it wasn’t to be had,” Fletcher said. “That was before the malls.”

The store had been a town fixture at the corner of Main and Pleasant streets for 93 years since Frank and Howard Fletcher established the Fletcher Brothers clothing store there in 1913. Later, Frank’s son Richard, took the reins following his father’s death in 1962 and his uncle Howard’s death in 1955.

The store’s name was shortened to Fletchers’. Richard ran the operation for more than 40 years, selling women’s and men’s clothing, shoes, handbags and outerwear.

Fletcher operated the business up until he fell ill for a brief period before his death in April 2007. That summer, the doors closed and the fixtures were sold. The store went on the market where it was listed recently for $199,999 with TP Hazel Sotheby’s International Realty in Harvard.

On Aug. 17, the deed was done and a Groton couple took possession of the building from the Fletcher Estate.

The sale price for the building was $150,000 according to the deed dated Aug. 3, but recorded Aug. 17 at the Registry of Deeds. The corner lot consists of a tenth of an acre. The building space totals 7,792 square feet according to the town assessor’s records.

Robert and Janice France of Groton are the co-managers of Bonnet Realty Co., based out of Shirley, which took title to the property. Robert France is also the president of Shirley-based Senate Construction Co.

France and his crew were inside the Fletcher building on Aug. 20, working on a game plan for renovations.

“We’re in the construction business, so we’ve done some rehabs but not for ourselves,” France said. His construction company performed extensive renovation work at Phoenix Park in Shirley for owner Eric Shapiro. But “this is my wife’s and my baby,” France said.

The lowered purchase price was helpful, France said.

“Price is always a factor,” France said, “but I actually have a personal enjoyment in old buildings so there’s a little bit of personal appeal here.”

The Fletcher building is historic to the town and is included in the National Register as a key building in the Ayer Downtown Mercantile District. Ayer Historical Commission member Ruth Rhonemus says the National Register designation provides “recognition” that the building is of historical importance without mandates regarding the buildings appearance and renovation.

France said he and his wife Janice, a first-grade teacher at the Page Hilltop School in Ayer, are “local folks.”

“I’m friends with Calvin Moore and I’ve really enjoyed watching the town improve its downtown image and I think there’s a tremendous opportunity here. I know my wife feels strongly about the Ayer educational community and the good job that they’re doing on education here. I think the town’s moving in the right direction and there’s an opportunity to be a good citizen here,” France said.

Asked if the building needs work, France said, “Oh, absolutely.” Asked if he thinks the building is in need of a total gut job, stripping the interior down to the studs and walls, France wasn’t so sure.

“That’s what we’re trying to assess now. The current layout isn’t well done so there’s no doubt we’ll have to change the floor patterns and evaluate what the best use is for the building. In some case it will be (changed) and in other cases we’re going to try to keep the character of the building. I’m certainly interested in keeping the historic character of the building,” France said.

France wouldn’t hazard a guess as to what use he’d seek to place in the building, saying the renovation work is first priority. “Not sure yet. It’s going to be a work in process.”

Guessing right is half the battle in a changing market. So said Richard Fletcher four years ago.

In Nov. 2006, the former Main Street Business Alliance honored three downtown businessmen whose businesses were in existence for a half-century or more. PN Laggis remains in business as a men’s clothier on Main Street. Barber George Singelakis retired and sold his landmark “John’s Barbershop” last fall. Fletcher’s business was the third honoree.

During an interview at that time with the Ayer Public Spirit, Fletcher said the family business stayed afloat with shrewd business strategy, but also luck. “You have to do the best you can and hope you guess right most of the time,” he said.