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Maker of organic ice cream clears hurdle for move from Portland to South Portland

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Maker of organic ice cream clears hurdle for move from Portland to South Portland

SOUTH PORTLAND — Certified organic ice cream and baked goods may soon be a staple off Highland Avenue near the Wainwright Farms athletic complex.

Maple's Organic Desserts is planning to set up retail and wholesale operations at 14 Gary L. Maietta Parkway, in a building that formerly housed a convenience store and pizza shop.

On Tuesday, the Planning Board voted to allow wholesale ice cream operations and a retail store, which would be open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Owner Kristie Green said the company will work to nail down a lease agreement, now that the Planning Board has signed off on the project.

"It's been quite a process to get to this point," Green said.

According to its Web site, Maple's Organics, established in 2006, uses certified organic products from local food producers. The company gets its organic milk from Caldwell Farm in Turner and obtains other ingredients from eight other farms.

The business is named after Green's 3-year-old border collie, Maple.

Planning Board members unanimously approved the project, but only after a lengthy discussion about the impact a wholesale operation would have on the neighborhood.

Green said the company makes weekly deliveries to several clients using a pick-up truck with a refrigeration box in the bed. About half of the ice cream produced is sold through the retail store, while the other half is packaged into pints and distributed to retailers, she said.

Ice cream pints are available at stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, including several Whole Foods Markets.

Concerned about the wholesale aspect of the business, board member Don Russell convinced his colleagues to insert language that would require "uninterrupted retail sales" at the Highland Avenue location to prevent the site from becoming a wholesale center, either by Maple's or any future tenants.

Board member Carol Thorne agreed, saying, "What I didn't want to see happen is for us to give carte blanche to wholesale in that area."

Green said her intent is to operate a combination of Maples' Forest Avenue ice cream production facility in Portland, which will close, and its former Old Port retail store.

The operation, she said, will fit within the 1,800-square-foot building, which sits on an acre of land, without any new construction.

The prospect of organic goodies on Highland Avenue proved too much for some board members to resist.

Board member Steven Jocher recused himself from discussion because he knew the applicant. "And I love the idea of ice cream on Highland Avenue," he said.

Board member Rob Schrieber said it was good that the store would be located near the Greenbelt walkway – far away from his home.

"That way, I can eat and walk it off. Eat and walk it off," he said.

Green said she hopes to open the store in April or May.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net