Gloucester’s fishing schooners used about 40,000 tons of ice a year in 1876, and when father and son Dick and Scott Memhard acquired Cape Pond Ice Co. more than a century later in 1983, the boats were still using about the same amount.
But now, with the industry in free fall, the company’s fish ice sales have fallen by 90 percent, to 4,000 tons a year. And with far worse times around the corner assured by federal regulators, the Memhards have put the business up for sale.
Scott Memhard cited the decision by NOAA against allowing the industry a second year of relief via interim catch levels as forcing his hand. The first year of interim limits held the reduction in Gulf of Maine cod to only 22 percent but without the same for the 2013 fishing year beginning May 1, landings will be compressed by 77 percent. And with $1 million in debt coming due, Memhard said he has little choice.
Memhard said the asking price is $2 million for the property — a three-story, steel-framed building of 35,000 square feet, on a 34,848-square-foot parcel at the inside corner of the Fort. With 180 feet of boat dockage at Harbor Cove, the site has long been a convenient stop for boats to ice up before heading out.
“The building has great bones, it was built above code in 1947,” he said Tuesday, noting that’s when Gloucester was the world’s pre-eminent fishing port, and had been for about 100 years. “It (the sale) has got to happen quickly; my challenge is to pay my bills.”
Those include $1 million to the U.S. Commerce Department, according to a synopsis of his dire circumstances outlined in a meeting with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and about two dozen representatives of the fishing industry two weeks ago.
Memhard foresaw the decline in the need for fish ice, which was his primary business, and diversified aggressively — aided greatly by the movie, “The Perfect Storm,” which introduced a global mass audience to “the coolest guys around” and offered the Memhards an opening to a lucrative T-shirt and gear market. “Bugsy” Moran, portrayed by the actor John Hawkes, wears a Cape Pond Ice T-shirt throughout the film depicting the ill-fated final trip of the Andrea Gail.