For lobster bait company, Turner is all about location

Posted April 19, 2012, at 5:45 a.m.

Why would a lobster bait and fish company buy a facility an hour away from the ocean?

Oddly enough, location.

Family-owned New England Fish Co. has purchased a 39,000-square-foot building at 1833 Auburn Road in Turner. The facility is completely inland, despite the fact New England Fish Co. relies on the coast for its business.

Sibling co-owners Suzannah and Ryan Raber have been leasing the former Cooper Brothers Apple Processing Plant for nearly a year, using it for long-term, overflow storage of lobster bait, fishing nets and boat gear.

“It’s actually quicker to get to our customer base from Turner than it is from Portland because of summertime Route 1 traffic,” Ryan Raber said.

Unlike short-term storage, which requires frequent trips in and out, the long-term storage facility in Turner allows New England Fish Co. to use big trucks to pick up bait less often, bring that bait to Portland and then use smaller trucks to distribute it to customers along the coast.

Suzannah Raber said she and her family also chose to set up a storage facility in Turner because she lives in town.

“We wanted to support the town of Turner. We love Turner,” she said.

The building has an assessed value of just under $233,000. The Rabers declined to say how much they paid for the property. They recently purchased it from a Cooper Brothers creditor who obtained the building after that business filed for bankruptcy in 2009. They are also paying the town for tax liens placed on the building several years ago under a former owner.

The Rabers decided to buy the facility rather than continue to lease it because they wanted to repair and upgrade the building, including fixing the roof and installing a large freezer.

“We want to make it look nice, so why do that for somebody else’s property?” Suzannah Raber said.

The 45-year-old company also has locations in Portland and Port Clyde. The Rabers hope to keep expanding.

“Our company is pursuing long-term real estate options in Maine. We want to stay here for the long term,” Ryan Raber said.

Because the Turner facility is used for storage only, it requires few employees. The Rabers hope to hire a security guard.

New England Fish Co. imports lobster bait from all over the world. The company can store 10,000 barrels of bait in Turner now. The Rabers hope to double that capacity with a freezer, a move they believe will help Maine lobstermen more easily get the bait they need.

“It’s very tight right now,” Suzannah Raber said.

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