Garbo Lobster facility in Groton to close

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Groton — East Coast Seafood Group announced on Friday that the Garbo Lobster facility on Thames Street in Groton City will close next week.

Garbo Lobster Company, which calls itself "the largest wholesale distributor of live lobsters in the world" with locations in the U.S. and Canada, has been a presence in southeastern Connecticut, in Stonington and now in Groton City, for the past 36 years.

The Groton facility for Garbo Lobster, a subsidiary of East Coast Seafood Group, will close Jan. 17, according to the announcement.

"The company is working with the employees affected by the closure of the facility to ensure a smooth transition for all," East Coast Seafood Group, which is based in Topsfield, Mass., said in an emailed statement. "To assist, the company will be absorbing benefit costs of covered employees for a period of time, offering severance to each employee affected, and providing recommendation letters and other support requested by employees during their transition to other employment opportunities. The company will work with affected employees if matched with an open position in one of its other facilities."

East Coast Seafood Group said that the "lobster packing operation will be absorbed into the company's other facilities throughout the Northeast" and that "the company's service quality commitment to its customer will not be impacted by the closure in any way."

"East Coast Seafood Group and Garbo Lobster thank the hardworking employees at the facility and the Groton, CT community for the support over the many years," the company added.

Garbo Lobster Company, which has its headquarters in Groton and also operates facilities in Maine and Nova Scotia, began when Dave Garbo and his brother founded the company in 1983 in southeastern Connecticut.

"With just a few fiberglass tanks in Stonington Borough, Connecticut, the organization was born," the company said on its website. "Today, the company is a leader in the seafood industry."

The lobster distributor found a new home in Groton City in the early 2000s when it built a 33,000-square-foot building overlooking the Thames River and moved from Stonington.

On a daily basis, the Groton facility can distribute as much as 70,000 pounds of lobster in the summertime and up to 90,000 to 125,000 over the holidays, The Day has reported.

In recent years, Garbo's business was sold for $20 million to East Coast Seafood LLC, of Topsfield, Mass., according to Garbo.

East Coast Seafood Group declined to comment on the reason for the upcoming Groton closure.

This summer, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, visited Garbo Lobster in Groton after China imposed 25 percent tariffs on a list of goods from the United States, including seafood, in response to U.S. tariffs. During the visit, company representatives shared the stress the tariffs were placing on the lobster industry, with Garbo saying at the time that "The tariff is putting us out of business." 

The Day reported that Garbo and Garbo Lobster General Manager Chris Brown said at the time that they were getting calls from Chinese distributors to stop orders following the tariffs.

k.drelich@theday.com

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