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September 26, 2012

Ciullas sell Loop land

Fish auction leasee buys auction property, Capt. Carlo's

Ending a 45-year epoch of entrepreneurial struggle on the waterfront, the Ciulla family has sold its holdings at 27 and 37 Harbor Loop for $4.1 million, according to documents at the Essex County Registry of Deeds.

The seller was Star Realty Management LLC, which descended from the original shoreside business, Star Fisheries, built painstakingly on the site beginning in 1967 by the late Carlo Ciaramitaro and his son-in-law, Augustus “Gus” Ciulla, who died last November.

The buyer, Kristensen Realty LLC, is owned by Kristian Kristensen, whose dogfish business, Zeus Packing Co., had been a tenant of the Ciullas’ Gloucester Seafood Display Auction, at 37 Harbor Loop, which fought a decade-long battle with federal fisheries law enforcers before winning a Cabinet-level apology and limited reparations in May 2011.

But the victory was Pyrrhic, leaving the family exhausted financially and emotionally from defending itself against what a special judicial master wrote was a “siege mentality” that gripped the agents and litigators and led to a litany of extra legal actions aimed at laying the auction low.

Kristensen purchased the assets of the auction house business last September during a flurry of legal activity, including a filing by the Ciullas for bankruptcy protection and an ill-fated suit by fishermen that alleged price skimming at their auction.

“We went as far as we could as long as we could,” said Larry Ciulla, president of the auction, said at the time of the sale of the business. “We wanted to make sure the auction remains in the community.”

The family was unavailable for comment Tuesday. The Ciullas had taken mortgages of $2.1 million in 2004 and $400,000 in 2001, according to Registry of Deeds documents.

Changing the name to the Cape Ann Seafood Exchange, Kristensen has continued to operate the auction business, which in November, two months after the sale, faced direct competition from the Canastra brothers, Richie and Raymond, who last November opened Gloucester and Boston branches of BASE, the region’s largest fish auction. The Canastras’ main auction house is in their hometown, New Bedford.

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