Harpswell wharf buyer promises no changes, may bring back prior owner

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HARPSWELL — The historic wharf at Cook’s Lobster & Ale House on Bailey Island was auctioned for $510,000 Tuesday morning to a Portland- and Miami-based real estate developer.

Arthur P. Girard, president of Delta Realty, outbid the owners of the neighboring restaurant for the property. Girard said he intends to keep the site a commercial wharf.

A consultant with his firm indicated the previous owner of the property, who filed for bankruptcy in 2015, may be involved in future oversight of the wharf.

“Nothing is changing,” Girard said, seeking to quell uncertainty that the sale would alter the working waterfront at Garrison Cove, where lobstermen have sold lobster, re-fueled, and moored their boats for generations.

Girard is a patron of greater-Portland area institutions. The University of New England Marine Science Center in Biddeford and the Animal Refuge League adoption center in Westbrook are named in his honor.

Girard has until May 25 to close his acquisition of the property, according to auctioneer Michael Carey of Tranzon.

Following the on-site auction, Girard also elected to continue to lease the property to wholesale dealers Eastern Traders, which employs three long-time workers.

The Nobleboro-based company has approximately six months remaining on its lease, according to Todd Suttle, a consultant for Delta Realty.

Suttle said he communicated with Norman Parent, the previous owner of the wharf and the adjacent restaurant, who was present Tuesday, about keeping Parent involved in management of the wharf.

Parent sold the restaurant to Nick and Jen Charboneau in 2015 after filing for bankruptcy protection, which also prompted the court-ordered auction.

“(Parent) has a lot of insight into the business and that particular piece of real estate, so he’s a good guy to have around,” Suttle said Tuesday afternoon.

Parent said there is no specific plan for his involvement, but the arrangement would be “good for both parties” because he is interested in staying actively involved in the property he originally purchased in 1987, andin  keeping “Cooks Lobster the way it was.”

Suttle acknowledged that the property is in need of an estimated $500,000 in repairs, which Girard intends to complete, and someone like Parent might be helpful in overseeing the work.

Though Parent’s possible return to the wharf would provide a familiar presence at the historic waterfront, many people at the auction on Tuesday said they wanted to see the Charboneaus buy the wharf.

At one point, the couple were the high bidders at $350,000, and were encircled by a crowd of restaurant staff, lobstermen, and area residents who were rooting for them to make the property whole again.

One of those people was Chuck Richter, who moors his lobster boat, Trial and Error, at Garrison Cove, and whose wife, Melinda, started the Orr’s Island Candy Co. He said he liked that the couple allows area fishermen store traps on their land.

But Wade Johnson, who works at the wharf, said as long as Girard and his management team “are good people to work for,” he feels “good” about Tuesday’s results.

Last week, he said people had repeatedly asked him if the sale was going to put him out of a job. On Tuesday, he said he was happy to find out the answer is no.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Arthur P. Girard, center, bid $510,000 for the wharf adjacent to Cook’s Lobster & Ale House on Bailey Island, Harpswell. Auctioneer Michael Carey, right, conducted the bankruptcy court-ordered on-site auction April 25.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.