Maine-based seafood company, stuck in limbo due to government shutdown, back in business

Published on
March 19, 2019

A Maine-based smokehouse that produces cold-smoked Atlantic salmon is back in business after overcoming the loss of its license to the FDA three years ago, and being stuck in limbo during the U.S. government shutdown as it tried to restart operations. 

Sullivan Harbor Farm Smokehouse, located in Hancock Village, Maine, reopened on 12 March after regaining FDA approval and documentation. The smokehouse lost its license roughly three years ago, and was then purchased by the company’s current president and owner, Leslie Harlow, who was one of the original founding partners. 

Harlow had parted ways with the business back in 2005, but when the business was shut down in 2016 she bought out the former partner and begin the process of reopening. The final hurdle was the government shutdown, which further delayed the reopening as FDA officials were unavailable to give final approvals.  

“Three years ago, when I took this project on, the goal was to make the facility and products compliant and safe, while still preserving the artisanal methods that made Sullivan Harbor Farm smoked salmon a stand-out from the rest," Harlow said. “The experience was bewildering at times, but we persisted. Grit, hard work, and a belief in small entrepreneurship brought us to where we are today.”

The struggle for the smokehouse, Harlow told SeafoodSource, is that the company is sticking to old-world methods. 

“Our major battle with the FDA was that our goal was to remain artisanal,” she said. “In today’s food production culture, the regulations are developed for larger food processors where old-world methods are not accepted, nor applied.”

Despite the hurdles, the company created a new HACCP plan, management program, and more to eventually gain FDA approval and open for production. 

Currently, the company has five employees and is starting to expand its workforce, smoking salmon that’s sourced from the Bay of Fundy. 

One of the benefits of being a pre-existing company that’s having a re-opening is the sales relationships that can be rekindled, rather than starting from scratch. 

“We are especially excited that many of our former wholesale and retail customer base have been eagerly awaiting our being back in production,” Harlow said. “Yes, there will be hurdles, but not like a start-up. We see it as rekindling former relationships. “

The company has begun hand-curing and smoking salmon in kilns with real wood, maintaining the old-world methods at the company’s roots, but to modern HACCP and FDA standards. 

“We are looking forward to years ahead with a strong understanding and respect of the regulatory path before us,” Harlow said. Our business model of remaining small, but with peerless attention to detail will continue to be our story."

Photo courtesy of Sullivan Harbor Smokehouse

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