The entrance to the Aroostook Centre Mall seen Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. The mall is up for sale and has drawn strong interest, seller Ten-X says. Credit: File

There is strong interest from potential buyers of the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle, but no deal has been signed yet, according to executives at the auction website that lists the mall for sale.

“There is strong interest from potential buyers with sophisticated questions,” said Joseph Cuomo, senior managing director of Ten-X, an online auction and commercial real estate seller based in Irvine, California. “So that’s positive.”

Unlike the Bangor Mall, which went through a Ten-X live online bidding auction from Monday to Wednesday of this week, the Aroostook mall is being sold via a traditional commercial real estate sale.

Ten-X said the listing on its website under a program called “ offer select” adds marketing might to reach potential buyers who otherwise might not have known the mall is for sale. But real estate agents at CBRE and The Boulos Co. in Maine are handling the details of the sale and will close it like any regular commercial sale.

The mall is being sold for a best offer.

Interested buyers can submit offers online while sellers can review offers, provide guidance and select a winning offer.

“It is a non-auction format where we add technology and marketing to expose the mall to a diverse pool of buyers around the country and around the world,” Cuomo said.

The Aroostook mall was listed on the Ten-X website in mid-December.

Cuomo said he stays in contact with the sellers about whether they want to keep the property listed on the website. He said he expects it to remain listed another 30 to 60 days.

“There’s been a lot of interest and activity speaking to potential buyers,” he said. “But no deal has closed yet. We hope something will happen over the next couple months.”

The property has drawn interest from developers, big box mall owners and others.

One of the highlights of the mall is the Lowe’s outparcel, which has a lease until 2026.

“That brings value,” Cuomo said.

If the mall sells, Ten-X will get a fee of $37,500 or 1 percent of the sale price, whichever is greater, said David Amezquita, senior associate at Ten-X.

Like the Bangor Mall, the Aroostook Centre Mall ran into trouble when its owner defaulted on a loan in 2017.

The Aroostook mall was up for auction in October 2017 but received no interested buyers, so the property’s mortgage holder, Wells Fargo, bought it for less than one-third of its assessed value at the time.

Craft brewers focus on business smarts

The craft brewing industry shows no signs of abating as the New England Craft Brew Summit in Portland on March 1 drew 500 attendees from around the country.

“The craft brew industry refuses to be a flash in the pan,” said Sean Sullivan, executive director of the Maine Brewers’ Guild in South Portland, a sponsor of the summit.

This year had more sessions than years past, and many focused on the business and legal aspects of breweries, he said.

“As we think of where we are from an industry maturity perspective, we continue to have lots of new brands on the market,” Sullivan said in an interview before the event. “It’s important that our brewers have business expertise.”

Craft brewers already contribute $260 million to Maine’s economy, but new entrants are heating up competition in the market, causing current brewers to consider growth strategies, including diversifying, Sullivan said.

Sessions included discussions on the legal and practical considerations of real estate, food safety, best practices in social media, managing tasting rooms and diversifying the business.

“You have to look at who the market is going forward and understand where the next generation of craft beer customers will come from,” Sullivan said. “You have to look beyond the 20-, 30- and 40-year-old bearded white dudes.”

Newer consumers include women, retirees and minorities, all categories of 21+ adults, he said.

J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham, diversity ambassador for the national Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado, kicked off the event with a message about diversity and inclusion in the industry.

She said craft beer makers and sellers need to find ways to include more types of workers and drinkers, including by gender, ethnicity, age and ability.

“There’s an opportunity for women to be involved in the industry and as consumers,” Jackson-Beckham said. “There’s an assumption that women drink wine, but 31 percent of craft beer drinkers are women. So this is a smart thing for craft beer businesses to think about.”

She said the craft brewing industry has recently shifted to a neighborhood model, where brewers are focused on local clientele.

“That’s tied to issues of inclusion and the focus on community gathering where everyone is welcome,” she said. “And it adds jobs in the community.”

Maine already has some prominent women running or co-owning breweries, including two Maine legislators, Sen. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, co-owner of Rising Tide Brewing in Portland, and Rep. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, co-owner of Moderation Brewing Co. in Brunswick.

Maine government ‘ice out’ webpage is live

With more snow forecast for next week and ice fishing enthusiasts still active in their huts, optimists can take heart that the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has made its “ ice out” webpage live.

Ice Out is the time when people can navigate unimpeded from one end of a body of water to the other end.

“There may still be ice in coves or along the shoreline in some areas, but when a person can traverse the entire waterbody without being stopped by ice floes we will consider the ice to be out,” the department said on its website.

Ice Out Update subscribers will receive a message by text or email at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. if the ice out table has been updated.

The department asks people to report ice out in their area via email. They should include the lake name, town and date of the reported ice out.

The page includes ice out times for previous years for those needing a trivia question to pose to friends during the quiet times in the ice fishing hut.

Ice fishing and related activities like ice fishing tournaments, bait shops and food services have a significant economic impact to the state each year. A 2013 state report put the economic impact of ice fishing at $73.6 million to the state, including employing 788 people.

Ice fishing season for all fish typically runs from Jan. 1 through March 31, although in some years it is extended in certain parts of Maine. In 2017, for example, the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said that because of unusually cold weather, the ice fishing season in northern Maine was extended to April 16.

A visit Aroostook blog in 2017 said 21,000 user days are expended ice fishing in Aroostook County every year.