Two longtime Sandwich lobstermen plan to build and open a business next to the town marina that would engage in the retail and wholesale sale of seafood and also include a sit-down restaurant and take-out food.
Dennis and Robert Colbert of South Plymouth hope to begin construction in December, and open for business next summer.
The Colberts, who are brothers, plan to build the facility at 20 Freezer Road, which is the site of the old freezer plant. It is immediately next to land leased to the town by the US Army Corps of Engineers and just feet from a bulkhead on the Cape Cod Canal.
Land records show that the brothers, working through a limited liability company, purchased the 1.2-acre parcel for $1.5 million. The sale was recorded August 14 at the Barnstable Registry of Deeds.
In an interview at the Freezer Road parcel Wednesday morning, September 16, Robert Colbert said that he and his brother intend to begin filing plans with the town in the next two weeks.
He anticipates that the building, which would stand one story tall and measure about 7,500 square feet, would include wholesale holding tanks for lobsters, a retail seafood display, a sit-down restaurant with tables, and a takeout-food operation.
Mr. Colbert said that he and his brother have been thinking for the past seven years about putting a seafood business on the property, formerly the site of a fish freezer plant.
The brothers see the business as a way to offer local lobstermen and fishermen a place to sell their catch and as a way to tap into the “farm-to-table” movement or, in their case, a “boat-to-table” scenario.
Lobstermen and fishermen already make use of an electric winch at the edge of the bulkhead next to the Freezer Road property to offload their catch. The winch is just west of the inlet to the Sandwich Marina.
Mr. Colbert said visitors to the canal often gather to watch the lobstermen and fishermen use the winch to offload their catch.
“They’ll see the boats,” he said. “It’s kind of like a little show for them.”
Should the brothers succeed in opening the business, Mr. Colbert said, they envision lobstermen and fishermen transferring their catch from the winch to a pickup truck that would bring the catch to the facility just next door, where it would be processed for wholesale and retail sale.
The brothers also said that lobstermen and fishermen also can offload their catch directly into refrigerated trucks, which then would transport the catch to other outlets.
Mr. Colbert said that the business will offer to broker the catch to other buyers.
As part of their business model, the brothers will provide lobstermen and fishermen with a wholesale price that will move as the market moves. They will not require lobstermen and fishermen to sell to them as part of a business relationship.
When one local commercial harvester asked how the brothers would handle purchasing, Mr. Colbert told him, “Only sell to us if we have the best price.”
As the owners and operators of two offshore lobster boats based at the marina, the Miss Julie and the Virginia Marie, Mr. Colbert said that he and his brother have been on the other side of these transactions for years, so they know what the lobstermen and fishermen face when it comes to dealing with seafood brokers.
On Wednesday, Mr. Colbert said that the business will buy and sell purely local catch, seafood that people can see winched up at the bulkhead.
The catch would include lobsters, crabs, ground fish, scallops, and other shellfish.
He said the brothers have no interest in bringing in and selling seafood from around the world.
The Sandwich Marina, he said, is a “vibrant community” of lobstermen and fishermen.
“There is a lot going on here,” he said.
Operating a seafood business next to the canal, Mr. Colbert said, offers an opportunity to educate the wider community on how the fishing industry works.
The operators of a number of commercial boats already have approached the brothers about selling them their catch when the business opens, Mr. Colbert said.
Assistant town manager Douglas A. Lapp said the town wants to help the brothers get the seafood business off the ground.
Their proposed use of the Freezer Road parcel, he said, is both appropriate for the town’s marina district and feasible.
Unlike some other development concepts floated by town officials over the years for land in Sandwich, Mr. Lapp said, 20 Freezer Road is owned and controlled by the proponents of the proposed business.
The brothers’ plan also represents a reuse of a parcel that has sat vacant and unused for a number of years, Mr. Lapp said.
“It’s been a long time since it was productive,” he said.
Adding to the attractiveness of the proposal, the assistant town manager said, is that the brothers are well-known and well-regarded at the marina.
A longtime fish market farther east along the canal, Joe’s Lobster Mart, closed in late August after more than 40 years in business.
Documents show that the Gallo family of Bourne plans to build a new fish market next to the Pilot House restaurant on Gallo Road, and lease the market to Joseph A. Vaudo of Sandwich, the longtime proprietor of Joe’s.
The Gallos, working through a limited liability company, are scheduled to go before the Sandwich Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee next Wednesday, September 23, to seek permission to build the 5,850-square-foot market.
On Wednesday, Robert Colbert said that the brothers had planned to build and open their seafood business on Freezer Road, even if Joe’s had remained open for business at its prior site.
Should Robert and Dennis Colbert succeed in opening their business, they plan to encourage visitors to come to the bulkhead to see the offloading of the catch.
Robert Colbert anticipates that that they will use a chalkboard at the building to let people know when the boats are coming in.