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July 11, 2016

New investment sparks a dyehouse's move to Saco

Courtesy/ NAI The Dunham Group The 35,550-square-foot industrial building at 34 Spring Hill Road in Saco. Saco River Dyehouse occupies a 24,000-square-foot portion of the building.

SACO — Saco River Dyehouse recently completed its move into larger quarters at 34 Spring Hill Road in Saco from its old space in the Pepperell Mill Complex across the river in Biddeford.

In a deal finalized June 7, brokered by Greg Hastings and Tom Dunham from NAI The Dunham Group, a 35,550-square-foot industrial building on 6.9 acres was purchased by White Rabbit LLC for $2.133 million. Saco River Dyehouse moved into a 24,000-square-foot portion of the building and holds a three-year option to buy the entire property.

“It’s clean, it’s well-located, it’s really excellent space,” said the company’s Managing Director and 2014 Mainebiz Woman to Watch recipient Claudia Raessler. “I can’t say enough about it.”

The need for new space was driven by the purchase of $1 million in new equipment, which replaced machinery that dated back to the 1930s.

Saco River Dyehouse acquired the equipment and a list of clients from a closed mill in Massachusetts in 2012.

“It was a niche dyehouse serving unique needs in the market, and there were a number of companies dealing with it,” said Raessler. At the time, Raessler and her husband, who produced a small line of yarns from their farm, were clients.

“So in a ‘wild moment,’ we said, ‘Let’s move the dyehouse to Maine,’” she said.

They found vacant space in a textile-manufacturing section of the historic Pepperell Mill Complex that was formerly owned by Westpoint-Stevens in Biddeford.

“We leased 18,000-square-feet, installed the equipment and started dyeing,” she said.

By the end of 2012, Raessler and her husband realized they needed to ramp up operations with new technology and environmentally-friendly equipment.

“Otherwise, we were going to go broke. Not because we didn’t have customers, but because our cost of operations and our inability to serve a broader market were real hurdles to our success,” she said.

For example, the old equipment consumed 40 to 60 gallons of water to dye one pound of yarn. The new technology takes four to six gallons for a pound of yarn. Today, the company dyes approximately 8,000 to 10,000 pounds per month.

With gross sales of about $700,000 in 2015 Raessler projects operations will scale to just under $3 million by the end of 2017. The company has 15 to 18 employees.

One of the last of the dyehouses

The dyehouse, she said, has a unique place in the U.S. textile industry as there just aren’t many dyehouses remaining in the United States.

“Dyehouses took a hit, as the whole industry sector did in this country over the last 25 years,” she said.

“Everybody still dyes cotton, linen and wool, which we do, but you have to position yourself to dye technical textiles — new fibers used in everything from industrial ropes to performance apparel,” she said. “All of these yarns and threads need new color, and that’s what we do. Our byline is, ‘We put color on yarn.’ It’s that simple.”

With $1 million in new equipment, the company needed more space.

To that end, Coastal Enterprises Inc. put together a real estate and manufacturing partnership with an outside investor, White Rabbit LLC, a real estate development and finance company. White Rabbit purchased the Franklin Fueling Systems plant built in 2008. Franklin Fueling continues to occupy part of the space, while Saco River has over 24,000 square feet and invested about $180,000 for building improvements.

CEI, the Maine Technology Institute and the Biddeford-Saco Area Economic Development Corp. put up $660,000 in loans along the way.

“We wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for the economic development resources that are available in Maine,” Raessler said.

Because the company had just invested in new equipment, it would not have been able to purchase a new building at the same time. The three-year option to buy gives the company “time to get relocated, get all this equipment up and running and then buy the building in three years,” said Raessler.

Read more

Women to watch: Claudia Raessler, Maine Textiles

Maine Textiles hires former financial services leader as CEO to head expansion

Saco River Dyehouse and Biovation among 10 semifinalists in $30K business plan contest

Greenlight Maine names 44 quarterfinalists to vie for $100,000 prize in entrepreneur contest

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