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March 19, 2018

Popular Higgins Beach Market in Scarborough sells for $645K

Courtesy / Cardente Real Estate
Courtesy / Cardente Real Estate
Scarborough's Higgins Beach Market, a popular stop for beachgoers, sold on Feb. 28 for $645,000, to Morgan and Elsa Schafer.

SCARBOROUGH — The purchase of the Higgins Beach Market — a seasonal roadside stop here that attracts beachgoers and locals — was pretty much out of the blue for buyers Morgan and Elsa Schafer.

Shawn Walker sold the market, at 82 Spurwink Road in Scarborough, to the Schafers for $645,000. Cheri Bonawitz and Karen Rich of Cardente Real Estate represented the seller and David Tucci and Marc Fishman of KW Commercial represented the buyers on the deal, which closed on Feb. 28.

A tiny structure of just 480 square feet, on 0.13 acre, has a dirt parking lot with space for seven cars. The market has garage-style doors that open to the outside.

As it happens, seller's rep Bonawitz lives in Higgins Beach and was also involved in brokering the $1.5 million sale of the Higgins Beach Inn in December 2016.

"At Higgins Beach, it's important having the market here, both for the people who live here and for the people who rent in the summer," she said. "It's part of what you do here. You go to the market and get your coffee and doughnut. The kids look forward to doing that every morning. They make great pizza and great lobster rolls, so people who come every summer look forward to that."

When the property went on the market, in September 2017, Walker was particular about to whom he would sell it. He really wanted it to be the right fit for all, she said.

"We had a lot of people who were interested as it is such a great location and everyone likes to stop in on the way to the beach," she said.

Not a typical commercial deal

Courtesy / Cardente Real Estate
Courtesy / Cardente Real Estate
In the summer, stopping in at the Higgins Beach Market for lobster rolls and ice cream is a tradition.

Buyer's rep David Tucci said the property's unique nature made it difficult to value during his cash-flow analysis.

"It's not like a typical commercial deal or residential deal where you can pull some comps," he said. "It's so unique that you're certainly buying a little bit of nostalgia, and you can't put a price on that."

The market is just north of Higgins Beach, ready to capture beach-goers coming and going.

"It's really the only game in town, unless you want to go into the heart of Scarborough," Tucci said. "They've got a captive audience and a cute feel. Going through the process, I was talking with the seller and he said, 'I know when the tide is coming in because it pushes everyone off the beach and they come here to grab some lunch or some provisions.'"

Seller Walker purchased the market in 2011 and undertook extensive renovations to accommodate a broad range of new products and service offerings for the local beach community, according to the market's website. Offerings include local produce and dairy products, small grocery items, live Maine lobster and steamers, coffee, homemade pastries, artisan breads, fine wines, craft beers, sandwiches and pizzas made to order, ice cream, propane exchange, the beach's nearest ATM and free tasting events throughout the summer.

'Things have a way of falling in place'

Courtesy / Morgan Schafer
Courtesy / Morgan Schafer
Morgan and Elsa Schafer purchased the Higgins Beach Market in Scarborough as a fun, community-oriented business.

The buyers took themselves by surprise.

"It's the craziest darn thing," said Morgan Schafer, who had originally engaged Tucci to find space for a Mattress Concept franchise.

Nevertheless, Schafer has a food-related background. A Michigan State University School of Hospitality Business graduate, he started his career in the early 1980s with the Houlihan's chain of restaurants, rising to become executive general manager. Other top positions followed, in chains like Au Bon Pain, Bertucci's and Starbucks, where he rose to the executive branch. Then he moved to an executive position with Advance Auto Parts, which offered Schafer the chance to head up its New England region.

"I had always said that if something came up in New England, I'd like that opportunity," he said. Moving from New Jersey to a Vermont condominium, the couple enjoyed being closer to their daughters, one in Vermont and one in Scarborough; Elsa became an adaptive ski instructor in Vermont, working with special needs children. In July 2017, Schafer left Advance Auto Parts, which prompted the couple to buy a second place in Portland, making it easier to visit their Scarborough daughter.

Wanting to pursue a new line of work, Schafer was awarded a Mattress Concept dealership. He engaged Tucci to search for space, but wasn't having any luck.

In the meantime, he and his wife enjoyed walking to Higgins Beach and always stopped by the market.

"We always said, 'Isn't this a cute little place?'" he said. "My wife and I had always talked about doing something together."

One day, their son-in-law mentioned it was up for sale.

"Things just have a way of falling in place," Schafer said.

The Schafers plan to reopen the market mid-May and run it into October. Its seasonality was part of the allure. Elsa will oversee the front end and Morgan the back of the house. They don't anticipate additional investment for now.

"As we get into it, perhaps there will be some innovation," he said.

He added, "We're psyched about it. We're going to have a ton of fun and we're going to become part of this really nice community. The people are superb and it's a wonderful area."

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