November 30, 2021

Harborside Graphics up for sale in Belfast > Owners asking $1.3 million for Route 1 building

BELFAST — Harborside Graphics, a T-shirt screen printer that sells its products internationally and is one of the city’s biggest entrepreneurial success stories, is for sale.

The company’s building in the Belfast Industrial Park is listed in a real estate advertisement in local newspapers. The asking price: $1.3 million.

The building, located just off Route 1 near the city airport, was completed in 1990 and contains a little under 24,000 square feet in office and production space. The property is zoned for industrial use.

Ellis Cohn of the real estate firm Jaret & Cohn said Thursday the business is also for sale.

Owners Gregor and Susan Davens are asking $1 million for the business, which continues to operate in the Belfast building, Cohn said.

Gregor Davens did not return a telephone call Thursday and said through a receptionist at the plant that he would issue a statement after the holiday.

Harborside Graphics has long been a source of pride for Belfast city officials and community leaders, since it was born in the area and grew from humble beginnings. At its peak, the business employed about 100 workers. In the era before credit card lender MBNA New England came to Waldo County, it was one of the city’s largest employers.

During the recession of the early 1990s, Harborside Graphics moved into its plant in the new Belfast Industrial Park and continued to serve as an anchor for the park and as an example of what was possible as Belfast transformed itself from its poultry-processing and shoe-manufacturing economy.

The Davenses started the business in 1976 in a store called Harborside Shop in Camden, then moved to Belfast, where they screen printed their own line of T-shirts in several downtown locations and even in the Davenses’ home basement.

In the 1980s, the business had expanded to the point where the Davenses needed to buy a former grocery store on Main Street. Harborside retained that property for storage until selling it this summer.

Harborside Graphics sells sportswear, with the bulk of its products 100 percent cotton T-shirts and sweat shirts featuring recreational, outdoor, environmental or wildlife themes. The company pioneered quilted designs on its clothing.

The Davenses have prided themselves on being progressive employers, allowing participatory management and providing a rewarding and comfortable work environment. Though more than half of the Belfast factory is devoted to production, it doesn’t look like a traditional factory, with its bright interior and comfortable layout.

Today, about 20 people work in the Belfast plant.

But a retail store off Route 3 closed earlier this year. And in early December, the business rented a local auction hall to sell off clothing stock and some of its office furniture.

Gregor Davens helped establish a local chapter of the organization Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility, and has served on committees of the Belfast Public Library and Waldo County General Hospital.

Tom Opper, owner of Liberty Graphics, a competing screen printer in Liberty in western Waldo County, tipped his hat to the Davenses. He cited their quality and variety. But the market has changed in the past decade, he added.

Other observers have said that the business is more competitive, with new designers using cheaper, foreign production facilities, making it difficult to make a profit.

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