A Touching Tribute: Anthony ‘Tony’ Maiola honored in Claremont ceremony

Patrick Adrian

CLAREMONT — A beloved former state liquor commissioner and Claremont native received a posthumous tribute on Tuesday from state officials, who collectively dedicated the city’s new New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet to his legacy.

Family, friends, and a bevy of state and local officials filled the new New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet on Washington Street for a dedication ceremony to honor Anthony “Tony” C. Maiola, who served 18 years as commissioner of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission and six years as the commission’s chair.

Officials including former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Lynch and New Hampshire Liquor Commission Chairman Joseph W. Mollica praised Maiola for his exemplary leadership and public service, as illustrated by Maiola’s extensive knowledge of the liquor industry and a hands-on work ethic that garnered the admiration of colleagues and store employees across the state.

“Tony spent countless hours in the outlets building morale during his 18-year tenure,” Mollica said of his former colleague. “He and [his wife] Betty would travel about, they were well-known and well-respected, and people loved to see them come in.”

Maiola, who was already the acting commissioner in 2005 when Lynch took over as governor, impressed Lynch so much that Lynch reappointed Maiola as commissioner, bucking the political tradition of replacing a previous administration’s officials.

“Tony was the type of person who would go into the liquor store unannounced, and if there was a line at the counter he would get right there and help box the alcohol,” Lynch said. “The fact that he was loved by the employees means a lot, because employees are a good judge of who the CEO is.”

Lynch said Maiola “reflected all that is good about public service in New Hampshire.”

Maiola, who passed away last year at age 96, served as the state liquor commissioner from 1992 to 2010. Born in Claremont, Maiola resided in Newport most of his life. During World War II, Maiola served as a U.S. Marine in the Pacific theater. Following the war he dedicated himself to public service, where he would serve on Newport Select Board and the Sullivan County Commission in addition to serving as a state representative for Sullivan District 2.

Family in attendance included Maiola’s wife of 68 years, Elizabeth “Betty” Maiola, and Maiola’s two children, Joel Maiola and Dawn Ranney.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this,” a tearful Betty Maiola told Mollica, Maiola’s successor. “You have done so much here and my husband would be here today if he could.”

Other state officials in attendance included Executive Councilor Joseph D. Kenney (Republican, District 1) and New Hampshire Sen. Ruth Ward (Republican, District 8), who read a Senate resolution in recognition of Maiola.

Gov. Chris Sununu was unable to attend in person but had a written statement read on his behalf.

State liquor officials lauded Maiola’s dedication to improving and enhancing the commission’s marketing efforts and the physical appearances of state liquor and wine stores, which contributed to significant sales growth and, in turn, increased state revenues.

The Claremont Outlet, which opened on Sept. 9, is a significant upgrade, aesthetically and functionally, from its previous store, which was also located in the same shopping center. The new outlet, which took over the space formerly held by Sears, is roughly between 12,000 and 15,000 square and is fully renovated with modern amenities, including temperature and humidity-controlled wine vaults, high-efficiency LED fixtures and oversized aisles for easy shopping. The new outlet, along with its neighboring retailer Hobby Lobby, look poised to revitalize activity in the shopping center, which lost significant customer traffic following the closure of K-Mart in 2014.

The outlet “is a great use of a space that was vacant and opened up another space that is going to be more occupiable” as a result, said Claremont City Manager Ed Morris. “It will be something that will help draw people to the other things that we are doing in Claremont and the community.”

In regard to former liquor store space, Morris said there is no official confirmation regarding a rumored Five Guys restaurant moving into the vacant storefront. The Five Guys rumor has only appeared on social media, particularly community Facebook pages, but oddly picked up traction in the community during the summer. The Eagle Times has yet to find any city officials who are aware of an interest by the restaurant chain.