Mast Landing Brewing Co. was named for a section of Freeport, where it was founded.

But when the beer makers were ready to move out of their garage, Westbrook was where they found a building that suited their needs.

When Black Dinah Chocolatiers decided to move its production facility from Isle au Haut to southern Maine, the owners were looking for places in Portland, but couldn’t find a space that was the right size.

They did on Main Street in Westbrook, though.

The brewery is set to open this month, and the chocolate maker, which moved in June, expects to double production. Another Portland company, Union Bagel Co., is also shifting its sights west, with plans to move its bakery operations across the border into a building four times the size of its current facility to accommodate an increase in wholesale demand.

Although Portland gets much more attention as a destination for good food, a different sector of the culinary industry has been convening next door – including some companies that have moved out of the bigger city.



The proximity to Portland, but at a reduced price, easy access to Interstate 95 and support from city officials are among the reasons that food producers are choosing Westbrook as a place to grow.

“We welcome the palpable enthusiasm for the Westbrook market and look forward to becoming the manufacturing hub for foodie Maine,” said Assistant City Administrator William Baker, whom several companies credited with reaching out to them before they started looking in Westbrook and helping them find a location there.

“It does take the support of Maine municipalities who will embrace a food manufacturer,” said Shelley Doak, executive director of the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association.

Just looking at Westbrook’s website, she said, it’s clear the city is business-friendly – one way it may distinguish itself from nearby towns and cities that also have the ability to feed off the energy around Portland’s food scene, can capitalize on the made-in-Maine brand and are situated to ship their products to other markets.

Among the food producers that have started making their products in Westbrook within the past few years are a falafel maker, a sauce purveyor, a pickle company and a creamery. Others, including a tortilla baker and a meat rub business, are also located there.


Haven’s Candies may have been the pioneer. Founded a century ago in a house on Forest Avenue in Portland, the company didn’t leave that street until 18 years ago when it needed more space, said master candy-maker Art Dillon.

Ideally, the company would have stayed in Portland, and it had been looking at a location in Bayside, but the process wasn’t moving forward fast enough, Dillon said.

Another potential location popped up on Route 1 in Scarborough, but it didn’t make sense to move the manufacturing operation to a more expensive retail strip.

A half-mile from the highway on County Road in Westbrook is where Haven’s ended up – and is now looking to expand.

“There was nothing at all out our way doing anything like we’re doing,” Dillon said about the Haven’s move years ago.



Although that has changed, the reasons for a food manufacturer to move to Westbrook remain the same.

When three friends from college decided to start a mushroom cultivation business in 2014, they wanted to be as close as possible to Portland, where they all live, and needed an affordable rent. They, too, ended up on County Road.

In a year and a half, North Spore mushroom company outgrew the 1,000-square-foot space, but it didn’t have to leave town to find a new one. The company moved to the Dana Warp Mill less than two months ago, into an area that’s more than five times the size of the former facility, where there wasn’t room to produce more than 200 pounds of mushrooms per week.

“It’s more about how many mushrooms we can produce than about finding the market for them,” Matt McInnis, one of the three partners, said about the high demand.

The company, which supplies mushrooms to more than two dozen restaurants in the Portland area, as well as specialty food stores and farmers markets, plans to double production in the next six months, but doesn’t expect to be going anywhere soon.

“It’s close to our bank. It’s close to hardware stores, the post office,” McInnis said about the convenience of being in downtown Westbrook.


Another company – one that started in the Dana Warp Mill –was also able to expand without leaving Westbrook.

DennyMike’s ‘Cue Stuff, which has been making sauces and seasonings since 2006, got its start in Westbrook by chance.

As the company grew, it moved three times within the mill, but eventually needed to move out.

The problem wasn’t a lack of space, said owner Dennis “DennyMike” Sherman. There were constant issues with the elevator – starting when the company had to use it to ship out its first order on a pallet to a Whole Foods store in the mid-Atlantic about six years ago.

The company moved to Eisenhower Drive in 2013. The proximity of the new location made the move “a no-brainer,” Sherman said, and he simply had no reason to leave Westbrook.

“Now we’re talking about shipping out our first tractor-trailer load” – to Germany, he said.



But aside from the ease of disseminating goods and the availability of affordable space, some companies see Westbrook on the brink of becoming more.

With a new pedestrian bridge under construction and plans for recreational amenities in the river it crosses, the downtown is in the middle of a major upgrade.

While prices are still affordable, some food manufacturers have been able to produce their products right on Main Street and have a storefront, too.

Mast Landing is building a tasting room at its downtown brewery, and Union Bagel has plans down the road for a retail coffee and bagel shop at its potential location in the rotary around Main Street.

It was imperative for Black Dinah to have a retail aspect to its southern Maine facility as part of its marketing strategy – to get its name out there.


There seemed to be a lot of potential in downtown Westbrook, between infrastructure projects and the other businesses located there, said Steve Shaffer, who owns the chocolate company with his wife. “(There’s) still a lot of construction going on, but when it’s done it’s going to look really nice,” he said.

McInnis, of North Spore mushrooms, also sees the city’s momentum as an added bonus for his business.

“Westbrook is kind of a budding town in its own way,” he said.


Perhaps the spillover from manufacturing into retail could help spur the already growing dining scene.

When popular Portland eatery Full Belly Deli closed its Brighton Avenue location, owner David Rosen looked at relocating in the Old Port, but decided it was too expensive for him and too inconvenient for his regular customers. So he reopened as Rosen’s Deli in downtown Westbrook, where there’s plenty of on-street parking.


There’s speculation about other restaurants opening in town, too, as well as more manufacturers, including a lobster processor, Baker said.

Doak, at the grocers association, foresees no shortage of new food manufacturers looking for a bigger home in the future.

“Value-added food production is happening all over the state,” she said. “There are people who are still on the stovetop.”


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