Abbot slate dealer to move into former Moosehead plant

Posted May 10, 2011, at 7:29 p.m.

MONSON, Maine  — An Abbot businessman on Thursday purchased the former Moosehead Manufacturing Co. property for $50,000.

Carl Vainio submitted the sole bid for the buildings and land that for decades served as the home base for the well-known Moosehead brand furniture.

“I plan to move my slate business there and use it to finish off my slate,“ Vainio said Tuesday. Vainio owns 17 slate quarries in the state and operates two businesses from the Monson area:  Monson Maine Slate Co. and Kennedy Slate Co.

The buildings and land were all that remained of Moosehead after a Portland woman purchased the contents and brand name in August and later sold at auction the unwanted inventory. Louise Jonaitis, owner of Grand State O’Maine Land Co. in Newry and Hanover, had submitted the highest bid of $1,050,000 for the entire business last year, but before money changed hands she learned there were environmental issues on the grounds. Because there were barrels of unidentified chemicals left on the property, Jonaitis negotiated with Machias Savings Bank, which had foreclosed on the property, for the purchase of just the inventory and brand name.

Vainio said he would address the issues of the unidentified chemicals with the Department of Environmental Protection once he moved his operation to its new location. He said he hoped to add employees over time. Currently, he and his son, Lauri, are the only employees.

The former Moosehead Manufacturing Co. first went to bankruptcy auction in 2007 when the local Wentworth and Durham families, who had operated the business for 60 years, closed, in part because of foreign imports. About 125 employees lost their jobs.

Hoping to revive the Monson economy, Josh Tardy, a lawyer, and Dana Connors, former state transportation commissioner, secured enough funds and purchased the business later that same year. They began manufacturing under the new name of Moosehead Furniture Co. Two years later, however, the men discovered they did not have the capital to weather the dour economy.  They, too, shut the doors, putting about 30 employees back on the unemployment rolls.

Machias Savings Bank, the primary business lender, placed the property and inventory up for auction. Seconds into the auction, however, it was announced that Tardy and Connors had filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. That move stopped the auction and allowed the partners and the bank to work with the Passamaquoddy Tribe, which had expressed interest in the business. When the tribe later opted out of the business venture, the bank again placed the property up for auction. Jonaitis then stepped to the plate hoping to save the furniture-making business, but was confronted soon afterward with the environmental issues.

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