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A Class-A industrial facility in the Saco Industrial Park will become the new home of a rapidly expanding seafood processing and delivery business that’s currently headquartered in Portland.
47 Spring Hill Road LLC, doing business as Maine Lobster Now, bought 47 Spring Hill Road in Saco from NEIT Realty Trust for $1.495 million. Justin Lamontagne from NAI The Dunham Group brokered the sale, which closed Nov. 6.
The property is comprised of a 17,348-square-foot industrial building on 3.19 acres. The building has three loading docks, one with a truck well; an overhead door at grade; 18 feet to 22 feet in height clearance; and recently upgraded office space.
The property was originally developed and occupied by New England Industrial Trucking, Lamontagne said.
About two years ago, the building was leased to Cirrus Systems Inc., an LED interior and exterior lighting company. After the latter’s departure, he said, he listed the property for sale in May and immediately had multiple offers.
Lamontagne said this property and another industrial building he recently brokered, at 29 Sanford Dr. in Gorham, set record high price per square foot for owner-occupied industrial buildings in Saco and Gorham.
“The Saco Industrial Park has been one of the most competitive locations we’ve seen for some time now,” he said. “Anytime we’ve got an inventory opportunity, lease or sale, there’s a lot of interest.”
Maine Lobster Now is a delivery service for live Maine lobster and other seafood products.
“We need more room,” said Julian Klenda, founder and owner of the growing company.
Klenda grew up in Maine and worked for his father’s seafood business, Klenda Seafood in South Portland, for over 14 years.
While in college, Klenda conceived of the idea of an overnight home delivery service for Maine lobster. He developed the idea and started shipping Maine lobster across the country.
Realizing the business had potential, about two years ago he leased a facility of approximately 17,000 square feet at 58 City Line Drive in Portland.
This year, the company will have shipped about 60,000 packages nationwide; the company expects to break $10 million in gross sales, he said. Those numbers represent ongoing growth.
Strategies to grow the business, he explained, include online and email marketing. Preferred rates with carriers, based on large volumes of overnight shipments, allow the company to offer free overnight shipping for orders over $100. And the company allows customers to select items a la carte.
“That’s what made us unique,” he said. “Other sites make people buy packages.”
The company has expanded its product line considerably over the past two years. It started with 20 distinct products: in addition to live lobster, that included items like mussels and blueberry pie. Now it has 200 products, including items like crab, fin fish, shellfish, soups and chowders, lobster mac and cheese, and kitchen supplies.
Most of the product is sourced from Maine harvesters; some comes from elsewhere, like Alaskan king crab. Klenda has been handling lobster meat processing at his current facility. But processing of other value-added products is outsourced.
Klenda plans to internalize all production at the Saco plant.
“I believe in vertical integration,” he said. “We buy from the harvesters and deliver right to the consumer. We want to handle everything in-between.”
Parameters for a new location included proximity to the existing facility in order to retain employees. The facility would have to be at least the same size as the existing plant, with room for expansion. Klenda said he expects to expand the new Saco plant to up to 28,000 square feet within the next three to five years.
In order to beat the high cost of new construction, criteria for an existing building also included three-phase power and access to sewer, water, natural gas and internet.
“This met our list of requirements without having to do any significant changes to the site,” he said of the Saco property.
The price was also attractive, he added.
Klenda said he’s finalizing renovation plans this month and expects to start construction in January. The goal is to be operational by July 1.
The refit includes installing machinery like a large tank capable of holding 50,000 pounds of lobsters and a deep-freeze storage unit. Other machinery will be transferred from the company’s current home.
Klenda also plans to expand the company’s marketing capabilities with the installation of a demonstration kitchen and photo/video studio, for in-house production of marketing content of things like how to cook lobster.
The refit is expected to be $500,000 to $1 million. The future expansion hasn’t been priced yet.
The logistics of moving a food business can be tricky, he said.
“We’ll operate simultaneously in both facilities for part of that time,” he explained.
The new facility will mean more jobs, and more job variety, he said. For example, in addition to factory jobs, in-house marketing will open positions in fields like web development, social media management and graphic design, he said.
“We’ll be working within the community to make that happen,” he said.
The company now employs 25 people year-round and about 50 seasonal workers. When the Saco plant is at full production, it will have 35 to 50 year-round employees, he said.
Maine Seafood Now joins other seafood businesses in the general zone.
In September, Ready Seafood had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new lobster processing plant on Route 1 in Saco, and Luke’s Lobster opened its lobster production facility in Saco in 2012.
Atlantic Sea Farms, also in the Saco Industrial Park, grows, processes and sells kelp and kelp products.