January 10, 2019

A look back: Pioneering a commercial district one Dumpster at a time

The very first issue of Mainebiz, in December 1994, featured a story about another company that launched in 1994, Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland. Founder Fred Forsley gave reporter Shirley Jacks and photographer L. Murray Jamison a tour of the Newbury Street brewery, which was adorned by "a handsome sailing ship logo" and was kept in "immaculate" condition.

Today, that neighborhood is at the center of a vast redevelopment with condos, restaurants, bank branches and corporate headquarters, including WEX Inc. and Vets First Choice headquarters now under construction.

But in 1994 Munjoy Hill was host to idled factories, vacant lots and aging housing. Forsley and Shipyard undertook a massive cleanup to get the brewery site in shape. Shipyard acquired a derelict factory that had once been home to Crosby Laughlin Co.

"Basically," Forsley told Mainebiz, "they walked out eight years ago and shut the door."

Shipyard's brewery workers cleaned up the site little by little, filling 40 Dumpsters. Forsley said throughout much of the 1980s, landlords sat on dormant properties. But by 1994, the city started to encourage business growth.

In its first year, Shipyard had 50 employees — and the brewery started to bring some life to the Munjoy Hill neighborhood.

"The sandwich shop across the street tells me it was ready to close its doors before we moved in," Forsley told Mainebiz. "We helped him get through because guys go in there and buy sandwiches. We're hoping to have an effect on the whole neighborhood and the whole city."


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