Many of you have asked, and surely the rest of you have wondered, “Who is Martha”?
It all began with Katherine, the great aunt of Bill Fokas, when she immigrated from Greece to Nashua 80 years ago. In 1936, she founded the original Marthas’ Sweet Shoppe. She named it after the popular candy of that era known as “Martha Washington Candy”. The original store was only one tenth the size of the existing Martha’s.
In 1944, Bill’s father, James Fokas known to most as Mitch, came home from WWII and began running his aunt’s candy shop. He soon expanded it to include luncheonette with 28 stools; it quickly became the most popular lunch spot on Main Street. “Martha’s Sweet Shoppe and Luncheonette” was a landmark in Nashua for 50 years. Every political candidate that came to Nashua had to stop at Martha’s and they still do today. Many longtime residents and politicians planned Nashua’s future here at Martha’s. Mitch’s next expansion came with the addition of an extremely successful catering company which catered nearly every major function in the city for decades.
Mitch Fokas married Ethel Scontsas in 1959. They had three children who all grew up working for the family business. It was Bill who decided to take over in 1985 after he had graduated from college. He began working with a restoration team on a two year renovation of the Merchants Exchange building which consists of an entire block of Main Street. It was at this time that the luncheonette and candy shop transformed into “Martha’s Exchange”. In December 1988 he reopened; the first floor being a restaurant and bar, which was five times larger than the original diner. On the second floor he designed a large function hall that allowed them to cater on site, they even kept the Sweet Shoppe which helped to keep the nostalgia alive.
Five years later in 1993, Bill had the insight to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the hand crafted beer industry. That’s when he added Nashua’s first and only micro-brewery, doubling the size of the bar and adding 90 more seats. He also included a bar which was originally used in one of Al Capone’s speakeasies in Chicago.
Martha’s has grown and changed throughout the years and will continue to do so in the future in an effort to keep downtown Nashua alive and vibrant. It’s our goal for all those who visit to enjoy a home-brewed beer, steak, burger, or simply a piece of candy, and leave with great memories.