Garbo Lobster will close the doors to its Groton headquarters on Thursday, according to parent company East Coast Seafood Group.
According to Garbo Lobster’s website, the company supplies lobsters around the world and has been a presence in southeastern Connecticut since it was founded about 35 years ago. It’s been headquartered at the Groton site on Thames Street since the early 2000s.
East Coast Seafood Group said in an emailed statement that they’re working with impacted employees at the packing facility, though they did not disclose how many.
“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 wrote, adding the company will also work with employees if they’re matched with open positions on one of its other facilities.
According to its website, Garbo Lobster also has facilities in Maine and Nova Scotia, Canada.
“The lobster packing operation will be absorbed into the company’s other facilities throughout the northeast,” according to the statement. “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 statement continued.
“We used them every day that we we’re open throughout the summer for 35 years,” said Chelsea Mears, owner of Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough located in the Noank section of Groton.
“Amazing to have them just down the street but at the same time, as a business woman, we’re never putting all of our eggs in one basket,” Mears said.
She’ll be reaching out to her other distributors before Abbott’s opens in May.
“There could be a silver lining in this cloud,” said City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick, who would like Thames Street to get a face lift.
Neighboring Electric Boat could expand into the space or an EB supplier could move into the 35,000-square foot building, Hedrick said. A restaurant could move in to the adjacent building, which is vacant.
Hedrick said he also plans to take a developer to the site who’s interested in Thames Street overall.
“This could be the driver, this could be the spark that changes the whole face of Thames Street,” Hedrick said.
East Coast Seafood Group and Garbo Lobster did not respond to emails no calls about why they’re shutting down the facility.
However back in August, Garbo Lobster General Manager Chris Brown, who oversees day-to-day operations, told NBC Connecticut they lost a significant portion of business due a Chinese tariff on American products that includes live seafood.
"We experienced an immediate shut off of business,” Brown said to NBC Connecticut in August.
“We were shipping anywhere 100- to 150,000 pounds a week on a given timeframe to China, however now that has dropped down to nothing,” he continued.
Garbo Lobster falls under the jurisdiction of Congressman Joe Courtney. In an emailed statement to NBC Connecticut Monday Courtney said in part: “As was predicted during our August visit to Garbo, local lobster consumers and restaurants in our region, as well as lobstermen throughout the northeast, will now be moving their business with Garbo to wholesalers in Canada. This trade war is causing real-life harm to American workers and our Administration needs a much more measured approach to advocate for real reform of unfair trade arrangements.”
Courtney also said he spoke with the Connecticut Department of Labor Commissioner about initiating “Trade Adjustment Assistance to cushion the blow for these employees and will work with the Commissioner to help ramp up federal programs as soon as possible.”