Lobster company buys former Maine sardine cannery

AP News
Posted: Sep 26, 2012 3:35 PM

GOULDSBORO, Maine (AP) — A Connecticut-based lobster company hopes to bring lobster processing back to eastern Maine after submitting the winning bid to buy a defunct lobster-processing plant that previously housed the nation's last full-time sardine cannery.

Dave Garbo, the owner of Garbo Lobster, had the high bid of $900,000 Wednesday for the cavernous plant and a 58-foot pier in Gouldsboro, said Tranzon Auction Properties Vice President Mike Carey.

Garbo Lobster will co-own the plant with East Coast Seafood, a lobster distributor based in Lynn, Mass., with plans to eventually re-open it for lobster processing, Dave Garbo said. East Coast Seafood has other processing facilities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The plant will need investment, with state and federal assistance, to make it a viable venture, Garbo told the Bangor Daily News. But he and East Coast Seafood CEO Michael Tourkistas are optimistic, he said.

"We obviously see some potential in the plant," Garbo said.

The plant was auctioned after the previous owner, Massachusetts-based Live Lobster Co., defaulted on a loan to TD Bank.

Live Lobster bought the former Stinson Seafood cannery after it closed in 2010. It had up to 70 employees in the summer of 2011, but shut down operations in March.

Garbo Lobster is based in Groton, Conn., and has a facility in Hancock, Maine, about 15 miles from Gouldsboro.

Gouldsboro Selectman Roger Bowen said Garbo has a good reputation and townspeople are hopeful he can a make go of it. When Bumble Bee closed the sardine cannery, it cost 130 people their jobs and marked the end of Maine's long sardine-processing era. Bumble Bee then sold the factory to Live Lobster Co.

"He knows the business, hence there's no need to develop a new business plan," Bowen said. "He has a good reputation among lobster buyers and I'm hoping, as we all are locally, that he will bring back and restore some of those jobs that were lost."

The auction was ordered by TD Bank, which sued last spring claiming Live Lobster owed it $3.4 million. A wharf and marina in Stonington owned by Live Lobster also was being auctioned Wednesday. A lease owned by Live Lobster on a pier in Phippsburg was being auctioned Thursday