GARDINER — Pine State Trading Co. is the new owner of the former Associated Grocers of Maine distribution property in Gardiner.

Pine State bought the building from Camden National Corp., which had acquired it at auction Aug. 8.

Nick Alberding, a managing partner and owner of Pine State Trading, said the purchase was completed on Wednesday, but he declined to give the purchase price. The 120-acre property was assessed at $16 million by the City of Gardiner, and Camden National, which held a $4.8 million mortgage on the real estate, bid $5 million at the auction.

Alberding said the Maine Beverage Company and Pine State liquor bailment building will remain at the Elllis Avenue site, but most of Pine State’s convenience store supply operations at the Augusta/Hallowell site off State Street will move to the newly acquired property.

The move was one of necessity, he said. They’d run out of space at their Ellis Avenue site and the company has needed to expand for some time. No new employees will be added with the move.

“We’ll take the great team we have now and move them,” Alberding said. “It gives us an opportunity to grow. There’s nowhere to go with the existing building. We’re landlocked and our footprint is completely used. We’ll be more efficient and able to expand our product offerings and continue to provide excellent service to current customers.

“It will probably take us several months to get the new Gardiner location up to where we need to be,” he added. “We’re going to have to make modifications to the building and office space to suit our needs. We’ll take it one step at a time.”

The former Associated Grocers of Maine distribution plant adds 265,000 square feet of warehouse space and more than 60,000 square feet of refrigerator and freezer space.

“The temperature controlled space is really critical to our business,” he said. “Food service, deli and meat is a growing area.”

Pine State has 750 year-round employees, and adds about 80 in the summer. Alberding cautioned that the new acquisition does not necessarily mean more employment.

“I don’t see it as a job-creator at this point,” he said.

Some 300 employees will work at the new site, but they won’t be new hires. Pine State also has 260 people at its 166,000-square-foot beer and wine distribution plant at Libby Hill Business Park, which is adjacent to Interstate 95 and close to the Associated Grocers site.

“This is a great outcome for Gardiner, much better news than we got the day of the auction,” said Nate Rudy, Gardiner’s director of economic and community development. “We’re pleased that Pine State has chosen to expand on its existing operations in the Libby Hill Business Park by purchasing the neighboring AG property on Brunswick Avenue. It will be exciting to have the doors open again at AG, and to bring vitality back into such an impressive building.”

While the move will benefit Gardiner’s tax rolls, it will decrease Augusta’s

In Augusta, Pine State’s property tax bill for the 2011-2012 fiscal year is $81,595, according to records at the assessor’s office.

“They’re an incredibly important company to the city,” said Michael Duguay, economic development director for the City of Augusta. “We would have loved for them to be in a position to expand their operation in the city. That’s a company that needs to grow in order to keep everything in Augusta solid and going forward.”

Alberding said the new warehouse will operate 24 hours a day.

Pine State has nine shipping and receiving docks at its Ellis Avenue plant. There are 30 at the former Associated Grocers site.

“Think about how many more trucks we can load now,” Alberding said. “This is going to be an opportunity for sure. We’re going from 9,000 square feet of temperature-controlled space now to 60,000.”

A prepared statement from Pine State said the company has more than 5,000 customers. The firm was founded in 1941 by Alberding’s grandfather, Charles Canning Sr. Coowners and managing partners with Alberding are his cousins, Keith and Gena Canning.

Pine State serves customers throughout New England and New York. It picked up some additional business from the closing of Associated Grocers of Maine when the grocery cooperative which went into receivership in late April.

 

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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