My favorite entries in this series come when I can use a place as an excuse to talk about people. So yeah, I dig Hayden's Sports on Main Street in Durham - the downstairs location was one of my first memories as a college kid in 1993, getting that first UNH t-shirt and plunging into the sea of school logo gear. I was already a blue and white guy from my Exeter High days, so it was an easy transition to Wildcat pride. But more importantly, the store was the conduit through which I met Roger and Linda Hayden, two Hall of Fame Durham merchants. More on that in a bit - first, some context.
When I arrived at UNH that fall, there was extant tension between Durham and UNH over a variety of issues. Among other things, the student representative was booted off the Town Council (Larry Brickner-Wood may recall more details). I was new to Student Senate and our Students For the University Council (SFU!), but I found myself plunged into the matter, helping organize student voter registration drives as we tried a write-in campaign to elect student leaders Krista Zanin and Pam Reed to the Town Council (and no matter what they might try to tell you in Concord, students can - and should - vote if they consider Durham their home). One of the beautiful things that came out of the simmering Town-Gown conflict was a sort of detente between students and downtown merchants. We mutually reached out to one another, fully aware that we had shared interests and shared fortunes.
Working together with the Campus Activities Board (Sophia Koustas, Jen Strickland Cyr, etc), we renewed the moribund Spring Fling event - which I'll cover in greater detail another time. At the tender age of eighteen I found myself spearheading the downtown portion of the event, working with the Town to block off Main Street, bringing in local bands like Gluestick and Thanks to Gravity, arranging for vendors, and working tirelessly with the downtown merchants to set up a bustling, vibrant sidewalk sale. Roger and Linda were central to the effort, even providing the iconic Spring Fling 1994 t-shirts (I still have mine!), as were Roger Houghton, Chuck Cressy (who I'd come to call a good friend during our later Rotary years), and more. It was a true collaboration, and a seminal early lesson for me in how effective and rewarding it can be to work together to celebrate our common ground even in the midst of disagreement.
I've been in Hayden's many times since - my wife will complain about how foundational gray UNH t-shirts are to my casual wardrobe. Most importantly, I was able to work with Linda during our time leading the UNH PAT Council and deepen my respect for her as a committed leader in the community. Durham is lucky to have people like her and Roger.