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April 23, 2018

Robin's Confections moves into high-visibility building in Biddeford

Courtesy / Robin Kennedy
Courtesy / Robin Kennedy
Robin Kennedy plans to expand production and add retail at Robin's Confections' new quarters at 586 Alfred St. in Biddeford.

A former medical office building in Biddeford that was on the market for several years is viewed by its new owners as the ideal spot for growing the production line of their Robin's Confections business — as well as for expanding into retail sales.

Robin's Confections purchased 586 Alfred St. — a 3,583-square-foot building on 1.19 acres — from 586 Alfred Road Partners LLC for $200,000. The deal closed Feb. 28. The transaction was arranged on behalf of the seller by Derek Miller of CBRE|The Boulos Co. and on behalf of the buyer by Michele Meadows of Bay Realty.

Built in 1960, the two-story building is across from the Shops at Biddeford Crossing, a high-traffic retail area with excellent visibility.

Miller said he'd been working on selling the property for three to four years.

"It had been under contract a couple of times to a couple of different buyers," including a Dunkin' Donuts franchise that ended up leasing another property nearby, he said.

The property posed several challenges: The lot is triangular, which limits the size of the building that can be built. And there's no left-hand turn into the property when coming from the west along Alfred Street.

"Finding a national retailer that was OK with that kind of access was tough," Miller said.

As for potential office users, he said, many are migrating to Biddeford's downtown mill properties.

Eventually, the property went on the auction block but there were still no takers.

From basement to storefront

Courtesy / CBRE|The Boulos Co.
Courtesy / CBRE|The Boulos Co.
Renovations are under way for expanded production and retail at Robin’s Confections’ new space in Biddeford.

Enter Bob Gartland, who owns Gartland Distributors in Biddeford, as well as Robin's Confections with his wife Kate and stepdaughter, Robin Kennedy. Up to now, the confectionary has been operating in commercially outfitted space in the basement of Gartland's home. The two were looking for larger space for production and also to be able to open a retail store.

Meadows, who has worked with the Gartland family on previous deals, began searching for a suitable property to meet their needs last summer.

"We knew from the beginning it was going to be a needle in a haystack, because they were very specific in what they needed and wanted," she said. "I went out to all of my commercial contacts and said, 'What do you have?' They said, 'Not much.'"

They looked at about a dozen listings, but none hit all the parameters, which included high traffic count, storefront potential, parking and distribution-truck capacity.

Then Gartland noticed the auction notice for the Alfred Street property. The auction had expired, but the seller jumped at his offer.

"The listing price was nearly $300,000," said Meadows. "We put in a offer of $200,000 and the seller took it."

Gartland said he began renovations on the property immediately.

"We gutted the interior down to studs, put in new windows, new heating, air conditioning and wiring," he said.

They'll move in the existing commercial kitchen. A quarter of the building will be retail. Expected investment will push $300,000, he said. Late June is the expected opening.

Increased production

Robin's Confections started in 2012, stemming from Gartland's preference for distributing Maine-made products. Gartland Distributors' inventory includes Mac's Kettle Corn in Lisbon, Smith's Log Smokehouse jerky in Monroe and Redd Bars in Portland.

Kennedy was working for a candy-maker at that time, recalling that when Bob Gartland asked her, "'Would you want to do this on your own?' I was raring to go."

Gartland remodeled his basement into a kitchen and wrapping station and began distributing Robin's Confections across Maine, as well as to several out-of-state distributors.

Kennedy's signature item is the Maine "needham," a coconut-filled candy. With two employees, she typically produces 1,000 per week. Using potatoes that are hand-mashed daily, she said, lends more moisture than other needhams using potato flakes.

Other products include chocolate-covered Oreos and pretzel rods, fudge and peanut butter balls.

Plans call for the ground floor on the Alfred Street building to be used for production and retail, with the second-story space to be used for storage. Equipment includes a chocolate enrober, commercial mixer, stove, refrigerators, counters and packaging tools.

The new space will double Robin's Confections' production area, accommodating more counters and packaging tables to start.

Kennedy plans to ramp up production, allowing her not only to fulfill wholesale orders but also to fill retail display cases and individual customer orders. She expects orders to increase with the new retail presence and a revamped marketing effort that includes an improved website and increased brochure distribution.

Kennedy expects to hire one or two people to run the retail side of her business.

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