The Pemaquid Fisherman’s Co-op is now operating under new management and a new name. The co-op was sold in January to Pemaquid Seafood Real Estate LLC.
Brian Bickford, the former president of the co-op, said the sale was partially due to a decline in membership.
“Some of the guys had gotten older or passed away, while others went elsewhere to fish because they could get more money,” Bickford said.
The co-op population dwindled until only seven fishermen remained. Bickford said as time went on, the co-op was unable to catch enough product to keep up with the business’s bills and debts.
Mike “Spider” Matott, the former chairman of the Pemaquid Fisherman’s Co-op board, said the conversation about the possibility of selling the co-op began in early spring. At one of the board’s meetings, Matott made a motion to start investigating the procedure of selling the co-op. No one seconded his motion.
“I knew it was something that had to happen at some point, but I think at that point I was the only one who was willing to admit it,” Matott said. “All we wanted to do was go and catch some lobsters. We didn’t want to run a business.”
Matott said over the next few weeks, all seven of the members came around to the idea of selling the co-op. At one point a potential buyer had expressed interest, however, the deal did not come to fruition.
“It got to the point where we didn’t know what was going to happen or what we were going to have to do,” Matott said.
One of the members of the co-op mentioned the situation to Tom Simmons, who had purchased lobsters from the fishermen in the past, Matott said. Simmons reached out to the co-op members and expressed interest in purchasing the business in early summer.
“He came aboard and started managing things in June,” Bickford said. “It really was a godsend for us, because now all we had to focus on was fishing.”
Bickford said the final paperwork was signed in December and the business was purchased by Pemaquid Seafood Real Estate LLC.
Simmons could not be reached for comment.
Matott declined to comment on how much the business sold for. In 2015, the town of Bristol assessed the land and buildings at $559,100.
The 6-acre, working waterfront property includes 670 feet of shorefront frontage as well as three buildings – two on the wharf and a restaurant – and two parking lots.
When the board received the money from the sale, the first thing it did was pay off the co-op’s debts, Bickford said.
“We wanted to make a clean break and make sure we repaid everyone, which we were thankfully able to do,” Bickford said.
The answering machine of the former Pemaquid Fisherman’s Co-op now identifies the business as Pemaquid Seafood and Simmons Lobster.
“The co-op is disbanded. We’re not part of a board and we don’t have to have meetings anymore,” Matott said. “We’re now all just fishing for Pemaquid Seafood on our own.”
Since Simmons has purchased the business, both Bickford and Matott said fishing at Pemaquid Harbor has improved. Simmons has been able to provide the fishermen with bonuses for the first time in a while, Matott said, and two fishermen have returned to the harbor.
“I’m pretty sure everyone is really happy with the way things have been running,” Matott said. “Tom has been talking about making some improvements in the future and I’m looking forward to that.”