BRUNSWICK — New England Tent & Awning, a Brunswick business that dates back to 1929, has purchased a site that's been crucial to its growth.
It paid $225,000 for the building it already occupied, at 111 Orion St. at Brunswick Landing. It has been a tenant at the site for five years. The seller was the company's now-former landlord, Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which oversees Brunswick Landing.
New England Tent & Awning was acquired in 2010 by David Norton. At the time, the company was at 178 Pleasant St. in Brunswick. (It was founded in Bowdoinham.)
In 2011, Norton moved the company to Brunswick Landing, leasing a 7,000-square-foot facility at 111 Orion St. The intention was to grow both the awning manufacturing business and the tent rental business.
"I immediately knew I wouldn't stay at the Pleasant Street location," Norton said. "We were the second tenant to move onto Brunswick Landing, when the Navy still owned the properties and the MRRA was just getting going."
At the time, 111 Orion St. and other buildings were not yet available for purchase.
"All of that is slowly happening now," said Norton.
At the same time, the company is building an additional 3,000-square-foot facility at the site which is expected to open June 1.
The new building, with 28-foot-tall ceilings, will house a commercial tent washer and is tall enough to hang tents for drying. This building solves the problem created when he was asked earlier this year to vacate another Brunswick Landing building where he had the washing-and-drying operation up to now. The building he had to vacate was so-called Building 252, at 49 Orion St., which was a 5,100-square-foot automotive repair garage for the Navy that was built in 1957.
Building 252 is being demolished as part of an overall plan to make way for the arrival of Wayfair, the Boston-based online furniture retailer.
Reached by phone in mid-April, Norton glanced out of his office window.
"I'm sitting here watching dump trucks and earth movers," he said. "I've got two large construction companies on my property. And down the street, construction is going on for Wayfair. So there's a lot going on."
Brunswick Landing, he said, is "a boon for this area and it's all starting to really show itself."
New England Tent & Awning offers tents for weddings, festivals and special events. It has a large inventory of tables, chairs, dance floors and lighting.
"That whole industry is exploding here on the coast," he said. "Everyone wants to get married in Maine. Everyone wants to get married on the coast as a destination. Boothbay, Southport, Georgetown, Bailey Island, Phippsburg — we have a pathway, as I say, that we travel up and down the coast throughout the summer. We just keep growing. We've tripled the size of the business from what it was."
While the wedding industry is booming, the company also has a division that fabricates awning structures for commercial and residential applications. That business has been harder to grow, Norton said.
"If you drive up and down the streets in Brunswick and Bath, there are a lot of derelict awnings," he said. "People don't look at that value, and they should be looking at it. But we're constantly working toward capturing more of that business, and we're doing it. That business has also tripled in volume since I purchased the company."
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