Saunders Brothers mill sold
BY M. DIRK LANGEVELD, Sun Media Wire
A Bangor area businessman has vowed to put the Saunders Brothers dowel mill back into operation after purchasing it at a public auction Wednesday.
Steve LaFreniere, owner of Eastbrook Timber Corp. of West Enfield, said Wednesday evening that he got the property after his $450,000 bid bested the total raised in bids on about 800 pieces of equipment and other items.
The town values the mill at $1,364,000.
LaFreniere said this is the fourth mill he has bought in as many months. He also owns facilities in Bangor, Houlton, Kenduskeag and Old Town, he said.
“Our intention is to work with the economic development people over here in the governor's office and our goal is to put as many people back to work as we can and get the facility up and running again,” LaFreniere said.
LaFreniere said he plans to continue operating the plant as a wooden dowel mill, though he is unsure at the moment what changes might occur.
The mill at 256 Main St. closed its doors in late May, leaving 55 workers unemployed.
Steve Keenan of the Keenan Auction Co. in South Portland explained before the sale that one auction would be held for the property in its entirety and another for individual bids for pieces of equipment and other items. He said if the offer for the whole property was larger than the total of the piecemeal sales, the mill and its contents would be awarded to that bidder.
“If we can sell the business in its entirety and put people back to work, that's what we're going to do,” Keenan said.
The entirety bid included the 26.63-acre mill complex; its 71,700-square-foot manufacturing and warehouse facility; wood-turning, machine shop, and welding equipment; vehicles such as forklifts and a 2008 Chevrolet pickup truck; $743,000 in dowels and other wood products; and intangible items such as the Saunders Brothers name, customer list, phone number and website.
A minimum of $50,000 was needed to participate in the entirety bid. LaFreniere also got the real estate at the site with a bid of $10,000.
“With the situation that evolved there, we have hope for the future for jobs,” he said.
A foreclosure auction on the mill was initially scheduled for March 29 after Bank of America said SB Acquisitions LLC, a Maine company with a mailing address in Boston, failed to meet the conditions of a mortgage on the property. The 2007 mortgage included a revolving credit promissory note with a maximum principal of $1.7 million and a term note in the original principal of $800,000. Two companies have claimed liens on the property totaling $113,319.12.
The foreclosure auction was delayed twice and then canceled. Saunders Brothers issued a statement saying the company was looking to sell the Greenwood mill to Joseph Woodbury, owner of National Wood Products in Oxford. However, the mill closed after the transfer failed to materialize.
A call to the corporate headquarters on Wednesday failed to connect.
Harry and Arthur Saunders founded the company in 1900, establishing a dowel mill in North Waterford, according to the company website. After fire destroyed it in 1916, they moved to Westbrook, where the corporate headquarters remain.
The company produced wooden dowels and other products such as rolling pin handles, toy wheels and checkers.
Saunders Brothers began operating at the Greenwood mill in 1999, town historian Blaine Mills said, and bought the property in 2007 from Gilbert Wood Products of Westbrook.
Mills said there has been a mill at the site since Samuel Locke, the namesake for the Locke Mills village, first established one in 1819.