New mill owners aim to make Locke Mills 'The Rolling Pin Capital of New England'
POSTED AUG. 19-“Maine can't live off blueberries and lobster,” said Louise Jonaitis, one of the new owners of the Saunders Brothers mill in Locke Mills, but we have wood, the mills to work it, and the experienced workers who know how.
Jonaitis and her partner in the venture, Steve LaFreniere, have already picked out their market niche: “We're going to be the Rolling Pin Capital of New England,” she said Wednesday, demonstrating examples of the seven varieties of rolling pins the mill and it's workforce had already been producing.
The partners' plans include a direct retail outlet in Freeport and “The World's Largest Rolling Pin,” on display in front of mill here.
And they already have a slogan – “Let's get Maine rolling.”
Jonaitis and LaFreniere plan to have the mill's machinery – some of it at least – re-started by the end of summer.
LaFreniere cautioned that the start will be slow and deliberate, and not all of the mill's 55 former workers would be back on the job right away.
“We're going to work slowly at it, to develop a marketing plan and a production plan to match what the markets are looking for today.
“We're not going to make 55 jobs overnight,” he said. “We're going to start with a small crew and build our sales force and our volume, and as that grows we'll grow, and we'll bring more people back to the plant.”
He said his own decision to invest here was based in part on what he saw at the mill's foreclosure auction last month, and at similar auctions elsewhere in the state.
“At these auctions, I saw what was going to happen – people were coming to tear the life out of the mills and ship them to other places and other countries.”
But that didn't happen at Saunders Bros., Jonaitis said. It was the first such mill “bought totally intact,” she said. “Nothing had left the building.”
The new business will operate as “Saunders Bros. at Locke Mills.” In order to complete the purchase the two partners had formed a second company, “Greenwood Park Lands” to take ownership of the one-acre parcel of PCB-contaminated land that had threatened to sink the deal.
The humor of the name, Jonaitis said, is intentional, but she is serious about encouraging The Land for Maine's Future Board to consider investing in such parcels.
Jonaitis lives in Hanover, and is involved in other businesses here.
LaFreniere lives in Howland, in northern Maine, and owns several businesses in that part of the state.
Next week's Citizen will have more on the new partners and their plans.