BELFAST, Maine — Less than two years after a food processing facility started operations in a former manufacturing warehouse off U.S. Route 1, company officials said it soon will go dark, and that its tenants must find a new home.
“I’m devastated,” Jan Anderson, co-owner of Coastal Farms and Foods, Inc., said Friday morning. “We have several million [dollars] in investment capital here. All lost.”
She said that her creditor will take possession of the facility shortly, and that as of this week, the electricity will be disconnected on April 22. The problem, Anderson said, is that for two years in a row, the blueberry freezing portion of the business — a major part of the new operation’s business plan — failed.
“For two years running, we showed such a loss,” she said. “It was hard for our creditor and our investors to overcome that. We have projections for the coming years that looked really good — the past is what hurt us.”
The 50,000-square-foot business, located in the former Moss Inc. manufacturing facility, was incorporated in 2011, and had raised $2 million in private investment and financing by the following year. Company officials told the Bangor Daily News in 2013 that the space could easily fit 100 producers. Anderson said Friday it currently is home to 15 food processors, including makers of ice cream, soda, dilly beans and blueberry vinaigrette. Additionally, nearly 50 farmers use its cooler storage, she said.
But Cheryl Wixson of Cheryl Wixson’s Kitchen said that the only primary recent tenants have been her prepared food business and Jeff Wolovitz of Heiwa Tofu. She said Friday morning that she’d been notified just 15 minutes earlier that she would have to move all her products and equipment out of the space by April 21.
“The facility is a very large facility. It’s a beautiful facility. It’s just too large,” she said. “You don’t build a church for Easter Sunday.”
Wixson said that, fortunately, her company’s schedule of taking the summer harvest and using it over the winter months to make products including fruit ketchups, marinara sauce and much more means that this was the last production week of the year.
“We’re not shutting down, folks,” she emphasized. “We have all the product made. We have all summer to enjoy it … we have a really good business model. We have a viable business. We just have one small problem: We don’t have a home.”
Wixson said that in contrast to Coastal Farms and Foods Inc., her company had the opportunity to make its early mistakes on a small scale.
“The whole state really wants what we’re doing,” she said of the food processing facility. “We’ll figure it out.”
Thomas Kittredge, the Belfast economic development director, said that the city is hoping to help the food processing tenants find a home in Belfast, if they want to stay here.
“While it’s expected that not every single start-up business will be successful, we are disappointed that Coastal Farms and Foods is shutting down,” he said. “It provides a very worthwhile service.”
Anderson is still hoping for a last-minute food processing miracle.
“I don’t want this infrastructure and this economic viability in this area to be lost,” she said. “We’re looking for someone to make it successful.”