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Updated: March 13, 2023

Historic riverside Hallowell building sells for $2.4M

aerial of old brick buildings and river Courtesy / LUX Realty A 14-unit mixed-use apartment and retail complex – the right-hand brick portions of the block seen here — on the Kennebec River in downtown Hallowell sold for $2.4 million.

A 14-unit mixed-use apartment and retail complex on the Kennebec River in downtown Hallowell attracted the attention of a leading lobster industry expert who also invests in real estate on the side.

John Hathaway bought 130-138 Water St. from Hallowell II LLC, for $2.4 million. 

Samantha Drake of LUX Realty and David Jones of F.O. Bailey Real Estate brokered the transaction.

“I’ve loved Hallowell all my life,” said Hathaway, who is CEO and president of processor Shucks Maine Lobster in Richmond.

Waterfront investment

The two contiguous brick-and-beam buildings were listed as a package at $2.65 million and marketed as a waterfront investment on the Kennebec River in downtown Hallowell.

brick wall and wood floor
Courtesy / LUX Realty
The interior features historic brick-and-beam spaces.

Historic elements include restored industrial era wooden elevator pulley wheels and ropes, built-in fireplaces and exposed brick. Modern reconstruction includes granite kitchen countertops, well-appointed bathrooms, upgraded egress stairways and new roofing. 

The 19th century complex was reconstructed several years ago and re-tenanted in 2021 by an experienced local developer, according to the listing. It now consists of nine residential dwelling units, five retail commercial units and riverfront land. The units are occupied, except for one space facing the river. The property is also permitted as 14 condominium units.

“It’s a great piece of property on the water — lots of parking and great exposure,” said Jones, who represented Hathaway in the deal.

Cutting river ice

The investment is not related to Hathaway’s lobster processing business.

Hathaway, who has worked with Jones on numerous real estate transactions in the past, said the deal came about when he was looking to complete an exchange under section 1031 of the IRS tax code, which allows investors to defer paying capital gains taxes on the sale of real estate by buying a similar property.

The Hallowell property attracted him on a few different levels.

Hathaway grew up in nearby Gardiner, a town south of Hallowell that’s also on the Kennebec River. His grandfather used to cut blocks of ice on the river.

river and corner of deck
Courtesy / LUX Realty
A view of the river.

“It’s an amazing river with an amazing history,” he said.

Hathaway said he used to spend a lot of time in Hallowell as a kid.

“There was a lot going on in Hallowell when I was a kid,” he recalled. “It was the antique capital of the world.”

Other spots included Hayes Bakery and Dom's Barber Shop, which is still there today. Hathaway cited more recent arrivals such as the Liberal Cup brew pub, Slates Restaurant and Bakery, and the Quarry Tap Room as helping to create new vibrancy along Water Street.

“I’ve always loved Hallowell ever since I was a young kid and my dad took us to Dom's for haircuts and we went to Hayes Bakery,” he said. “I had a lot of really great friends from Hallowell growing up. It’s always been an amazing town and still is.”

Hathaway said he’s engaged in real estate investment and development, including building subdivisions and condos, since before getting into the lobster business.

‘Big mother shucker’

His company, Shucks Maine Lobster, started as a small, 20-seat, family-owned lobster and oyster bar in Kennebunkport. Hathaway and his five children, who were ages 8 to 18 at the time, operated the restaurant during the summer “simply as a way for the five children to all work together during their summer vacation,” according to the company’s website.

person with long hair and glasses
John Hathaway.

Today, Shucks produces value-added Maine lobster products sustainably certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. The company uses a technology called “high pressure processing” that Hathaway learned about in 2006, when he visited an oyster processor in Louisiana. The technology helps shuck raw lobster meat from the shell. Hathaway purchased his own high pressure processing machine, before even having a customer, and dubbed it the “Big Mother Shucker” for its size — 16 feet tall and 80,000 pounds.

In 2007, Shucks Maine Lobster won Prix d’Elite awards for Best New Foodservice Product and Most Convenient New Seafood Product at the Brussels International Seafood Show for its raw high pressure processing lobster meat.

Additional opportunities

But real estate has been a continuous thread through his life. He bought his first house for $1 — all he could afford — a long time ago, then fixed it up and sold it. He then got into the real development business and now buys the occasional property. 

“Real estate is fun, challenging and can be a good way to invest,” he said. “I encourage young people and my employees to buy a house. It’s generally a great investment for them.”

The latest property is in great shape and Hallowell is thriving with new businesses while preserving its history, he said. His first goal is to make sure the tenants are happy. 

Second, he said, “We remain dedicated to continuing to make Hallowell a special place to live and shop in the state of Maine.”

back of brick building with deck
Courtesy / LUX Realty
The rear includes an upper-story deck and a vacant commercial space in search of a tenant.

With condo permits already in place, the building could offer an opportunity for tenants to become owners, he noted.

“The property backs on to the amazing Kennebec River and offers not only great views, but we also have a vacant bar/restaurant space on the riverfront that presents some interesting opportunities,” he added.

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