Here’s what the new Rosemont Market and Harbor Fish Market hybrid in Scarborough might look like. Photo courtesy of Hebert Construction

Rosemont Market and Harbor Fish Market, two popular Portland food businesses, will open a joint location in Scarborough in the fall.

The project is part of the redevelopment of the former Oak Hill fire and police station by developers Jack Soley and Timothy Hebert, who purchased the site from the town in January 2020 and are transforming it into a new village center that will also include a fitness center, an outdoor plaza and affordable housing for seniors. The development, located off Route 1 between Westwood Avenue and Fairfield Road, has also drawn interest recently from a Portland restaurant, a brewpub, a financial adviser, a nutrition bar and professional businesses, although none have yet signed leases, so the developers wouldn’t name them.

“We had (Rosemont Market and Harbor Fish) in mind before they even knew about it,” Hebert said, “and we really pushed hard to bring our vision for the site together. It took a while, but we held true to making sure that this isn’t just another development, or another strip mall. This is something special.”

Harbor Fish, located on Custom House Wharf in Portland, already sells its catch at Rosemont Markets, and the owners of the businesses have been talking for the past couple of years about opening a place together, under one roof. But it was all talk until the Oak Hill site became available.

John Naylor, founder and owner of six Rosemont Markets, said he and Mike Alfiero, whose family has owned Harbor Fish Market since 1966, “have developed a nice relationship, and it just occurred to me that this space would be a perfect space for us to get together. Coming out of this pandemic, I think a lot of small businesses are thinking about how do we do business a little differently.”

Naylor said Soley first approached him with the idea about a year ago, but it was at a time when the pandemic was worsening and the economy seemed unstable. Alfiero said the fish market had just converted to curbside pickup when Naylor called to see if he was interested in joining forces. “He said sometimes crazy ideas happen during crazy times,” Alfiero said.

But Alfiero wasn’t sold, even after he and his brother Nick took a look at the property. It’s not that they weren’t interested, but the economy seemed too shaky to take such a big risk.

“I said to John, ‘I can’t even comprehend doing a project right now. I’m more concerned about survivability,’ ” Alfiero said. “We were morphing and pivoting left and right with curbside, home delivery. We lost all our wholesale business, which is about 50 percent of our business, and we were hitting panic mode. Then we righted the ship.”

By fall, things were looking better, so Naylor and Alfiero took another look. Alfiero sat down with his management staff to gauge their interest, and “they immediately said yes.” A new partnership was born.

Alfiero said he and Naylor “have very similar core values about a lot of things in life and the way we run our businesses. He loves food. We do. He’s a former fishmonger, so he knows fish.”

Hebert said he and Soley wanted to land Rosemont and Harbor Fish because they hold similar “farm-to-table and sea-to-table” values. “With all of the issues that we’re seeing around the world today with distribution and transportation,” he said, “to have two entities that are Maine-based businesses, family-owned and operated, that provide (food from) the sea and the land, it’s pretty amazing.”

In addition to the two markets and other businesses, the development will have 31 affordable apartments for seniors.

Hebert said they want the Scarborough development to be a pedestrian-friendly addition to the neighborhood, a classic village center that is also a destination spot. Cyclists biking the Eastern Trailway, for example, could stop by for a cup of coffee or a sandwich from Rosemont and rest at a table on the outdoor plaza, he said. The site is also close to Scarborough Beach and Higgins Beach.

Hebert said they are expecting to get final site plan approval from the town by the end of April and hope to start building in August.

The look of the Rosemont-Harbor Fish hybrid is still under development, but Naylor said, at 4,800 square feet, the space will be about the same size as the Rosemont Market on Brighton Avenue in Portland. “It will feel a little more open because the ceilings are higher,” he said. “It’s got those big windows.”

Alfiero said he’ll bring a lot of the same concepts from the Custom House Wharf market to Scarborough, but there will be some changes. The Scarborough Harbor Fish will sell a lot more prepared foods, such as lobster rolls, crab rolls and chowders, he said, and he plans to continue the line of foods the market has been selling during the pandemic, including calamari salads, pates, seafood salads and poke bowls.

Alfiero said the new market will also sell whole fish – black sea bass, snappers, flounder, ribbon fish, grouper – for roasting, which is popular in the Portland market. “We’re carrying 15 to 20 different varieties of (whole fish) during the week, and we’re selling it all,” he said.

“But we’re also going to be doing some of the things that we do at Harbor Fish that’s a little bit of theater,” Alfiero added, such as breaking down a whole halibut, cutting fish steaks and cleaning fish in front of customers. A big oyster display will be part of the mix as well.

“There’s going to be a lot of water and a lot of splashing, and gurgling lobster tanks,” he said. “We’re going to create that atmosphere even though it’s not on the water.”

Alfiero also plans to host special events with local chefs, oyster growers and wine makers.

“For Harbor Fish, I think it’s time,” he said. “The opportunity before us is just so wonderful. My staff – all of us – are very, very excited.”


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