Rockport Marketplace to close after 19 years

By Gabriel Blodgett | Jul 09, 2019
Photo by: Gabriel Blodgett Owner Cathe Morrill at Rockport Marketplace, which will close July 31 after 19 years.

Rockport — After 19 years, Rockport Marketplace will close its doors July 31. According to owner Cathe Morrill, State of Maine Cheese Co. will continue to make cheese at the facility for wholesale distribution while looking for a buyer to take over the brand and find a new space for the cheese-making equipment.

Morrill and her husband, Frank, bought State of Maine Cheese in 1996, becoming the third owners of the company, founded in 1983. After several years at a different location, they bought the property at 461 Commercial St. and built Rockport Marketplace. It opened in 2000, with then-Gov. Angus King cutting the ribbon.

Over the course of their 23 years in charge, they have seen the number of licensed cheese producers in the state rise from eight to more than 90.

While Morrill said there have been “some very sad goodbyes,” she added, “we’ve had a whole bunch of fun.”

She said a highlight of their time running the businesses has been getting to meet a number of “talented, fabulous food producers in Maine.”

Along with the relationships they built through carrying local products in the Marketplace, Morrill said the building provided a great setting for other businesses to operate in. At various times over the 19 years, those have included A Small Good, Bleecker & Greer, Dolcelinos and Maine Gold.

The cheese-making equipment also allowed them to help other cheese producers, like Lakin’s Gorges, now of Waldoboro, get started.

Although the couple had considered next steps for the business in recent years, Morrill said “this chapter’s ending a little earlier than expected.”

She said that when she and Frank put the property on the market two years ago, they envisioned remaining in the space as an anchor tenant continuing both cheese production and the Marketplace.

However, on Valentine’s Day this year, they were approached with an offer by Tiffany Ford, who has since received approval from the Rockport Planning Board to renovate the space and turn it into an entertainment center with escape rooms in the upstairs section, which is currently office space.

Within three weeks they were under contract and the sale closed May 31.

While Morrill admitted that in the near future, there are “lots of unknowns for me,” career changes are not a foreign concept to her. Prior to buying the company, she worked as a senior vice president of Key Retirement Trust, which became part of Key Bank. When changes in the company would have forced her to relocate to Cleveland, she began looking for a business in the Midcoast to buy.

She said throughout their time she and her husband have loved the support of the community, which includes local customers and vendors as well as the tourists and visitors who would often stop on their annual vacations to the area.

While many of the cheese products are available at other local stores, she said they will work diligently to ensure that people will still be able to get all the products they rely on.

A big sale is planned for July 27 to move inventory from the Marketplace, but the phones will remain open for those looking for products that may not be available at local retailers.

Although she likened the process of giving up the businesses to “watching a baby go to college,” she remains hopeful that as in 1996, it will be “another great development for the brand.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: RALPH WALLACE | Jul 11, 2019 10:00

Thank you, Cathe and Frank, for your entrepreneurship. Since first coming to the Midcoast, my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed the products and services of State of Maine Cheese. You will be missed. Best of luck in all your future endeavors.

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