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Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Cooperative Purchases its Wharf

In late March the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op completed its purchase of the Miller wharf from which it has been operating since its inception in 2016. The small parcel of land includes a restaurant building, wharf, floats, freezer, and parking lot, all tucked in behind the popular East Wind Inn. The cost was $1.1 million.

The Co-op's wharf escaped the winter storms largely undamaged.

“We’ve been talking about this since the first members’ meeting in January 2017,” Josh Miller, former Co-op board president. “We wanted to secure our place on the waterfront.”

The Miller family purchased the property in the early 1970s. Josh’s grandparents, Anne and Red, ran Cod End Restaurant and Marina, which provided fuel, ice, and moorings to recreational and commercial vessels; Anne also operated the popular Cod End restaurant for decades. Their four sons — Danny, Hal, Peter and Tad — all of whom are fishermen, inherited the wharf in 2002 from their parents. The restaurant remained closed until Luke’s Lobster took it over briefly, from 2016 to 2020.

As a fairly new co-operative operating during a time of fluctuating lobster prices, a world-wide pandemic, and the onslaught of restrictive regulations designed to protect right whales, finding the funds to purchase the property appeared daunting.

“We talked with the Island Institute [in Rockland] folks for a couple of years. They wanted to facilitate it however they could. Traditional financing did not work because we would have to have flood insurance. That would cost $25,000 per year,” Miller said.

The wharf gives co-op members and others in the Tenants Harbor area

commercial access to the water.

Eventually the Co-op found a lender who did not require flood insurance coverage: The Cooperative Fund of New England. Based in Massachusetts, the Cooperative Fund is a socially responsible lending and investment organization. “We had about a year of discussions with them,” Miller said. “It took a while because we paused when fishing started up.”

At the start of this year, the Co-op board was ready to approach the members. They needed to come up with a minimum of $110,000 to purchase the property with financing provided by the Cooperative Fund. “We structured it as shares and asked each member to purchase a $5,000 share. It wasn’t mandatory. If someone didn’t want to they could still be a member of the co-op,” he said. By the end of the members’ meeting in January, the $110,000 downpayment was in hand.

“That part was awesome,” Miller said. “There was consensus at the meeting. It showed that everyone believed in this.”

Members of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Co-op have worked toward buying

their property since the Co-op was founded in 2016. THFC photos.

The Co-op was awarded a Working Waterfront Access grant through the Land for Maine’s Future board in 2016, ensuring that the property will forever remain working waterfront rather than convert to a residential or other use. Purchasing the land itself gives the Co-op members and other local fishermen an even more secure foothold on the small harbor.

“It’s definitely a good thing for the village of Tenants Harbor. We’ve secured access to the water for all sorts of commercial harvesters. We’ve got lobstermen and also a small pogey fleet and several scallop boats. We’ve had aquaculturists use the wharf and they may come back in the future,” Miller said. “It indicates to other people that we are here.”


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