The O'Hara Corporation has cut ice production from its enterprise, selling all retail ice boxes to a Brewer company.

Accounting for three state depots, about 25 employees are out of a job.

In Rockland, the corporation operates a full-service marina, Journey's End, boat hauling and maintenance services. Also based in Seattle, the corporation co-owns Eastern Fisheries, which manages fishing fleets, processing plants and an aquaculture farm in China.

The O'Hara Bait component is the largest bait supplier in the state, owning and operating two herring vessels, according to the company's website.

O'Hara's first began producing ice for their fishing fleets in the 1970s.

Frank O'Hara Jr., vice president of the company, said Getchell Bros. bought the retail ice boxes from the company.

Former Ice Manager Paul McFarland III, who has worked for O'Hara's for more than 25 years, said the plant is no longer producing bulk ice, a decision that was made in April.

McFarland started working for the company as a teenager — unloading boats and working in the fish plant.

"It's been an interesting 25 years," he said, " but corporate America is affecting all of us, even the ice industry."

McFarland said the decision was made because the estimated $500,000 investment needed for equipment upgrades and trucks was not deemed a priority in the face of a shrinking market and weak future of the industry.

"It didn't look like a wise investment," he said.

With advances in cooling technology, competition and people limiting spending, the ice business was operating on a shoestring, he said.

"It was a tough, demanding job for a 10 week season. It was a challenge to get goals accomplished and cut expenses," McFarland said.

"Times are not a good as they used to be," he said, recalling 20 years prior when ice was a popular item for camping and parties and the business did well. "People just don't have the time or money now," he said.

He also remembers many locals who held first jobs there.

No longer employing local teenagers and keeping an eye out for them will be a detriment to the community, he said. "It was one of the last places you could put in a good, hard day's work."

Brady Clark of Lincolnville was employed by O'Hara last summer. He was told there would no longer be work for him, helping deliver and bag ice.

He said the paring down is to cut costs, explaining that O'Hara's is primarily a fishing and bait industry. "A five pound bag of ice is not the same as a five pound bag of bait, " he said. "That's [fishing] where the money is."

Clark said it's difficult to find work that includes benefits.

"Right now, I'm just trying to find a job," he said.

McFarland said he is sorry for the employees that have worked for the company for a long time and only needed a few more years to finish out their careers — many who are also at an age where starting over is difficult.

McFarland himself said he is looking forward to a new venture, spraying and treating for ticks. "When one door closes another opens," he said.

Courier Publications reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.