Mills Seafood under new ownership, resumes operations

Mills Seafood, a long-time staple of the Bouctouche economy, resumed operations on Thursday, after finding a new owner.

Bouctouche staple closed suddenly last year, putting more than 100 people out of work

New Mills Seafood owner Norm LeBlanc said he made an offer to buy the plant around late April. (CBC)

Mills Seafood, a long-time staple of the Bouctouche economy, resumed operations on Thursday, after finding a new owner.

The seafood processing plant closed suddenly last September, putting more than a hundred people out of work. Employees said they just received a call one morning telling them to pick up their stuff because the plant would not reopen again.

New owner Norm LeBlanc said he made an offer to buy the plant around late April.

LeBlanc would not say how big the investment was, except that it was in the "low seven figures."

Mills processes just about everything seafood, and although LeBlanc said clams only represents about 10 per cent of his production volume, the reopening was welcome news for all in the clam industry. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

LeBlanc, who is president of Captain Dan's Seafood — and opened the popular Pointe-du-Chêne restaurant Captain Dan's before eventually selling it — said he was hoping to begin operations earlier in the season, but had to wait to receive his operating licence from government, which only happened this week.

Still, he said he was extremely happy to begin this new venture. 

"This particular operation has been in the community in Bouctouche for close to 50 years," said LeBlanc. "I think when it did shut down it put a lot of people out of work and the community was distraught."

Feels like home

About 40 of the employees who lost their jobs when Mills suddenly closed were hired back. The others have since found work elsewhere, and LeBlanc said he's actively looking to at least double his staff.

Employees were in extremely good spirits on Thursday for what was the first day of work in almost a year for some.

Employees were happy to return to work on Thursday. Many had not found jobs since the plant shut down. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

Many had worked at Mills their entire lives and were devastated when the plant closed.

"I'm happy I'm back here. It's home," said Linda LeBlanc, who has been working at Mills for 35 years. "We have everything down here."

"We're like a family here," said another employee, Rachel Arsenault. 

Good news for clam industry

Mills processes just about everything seafood, and although LeBlanc said clams only represents about 10 per cent of his production volume, the reopening was welcome news for all in the clam industry.

Many who sell the product, including some take-out restaurants, were worried earlier this season about where they would get their supply.

There are only a handful of clam suppliers in the province, and Mills is by far the largest. (Pierre Fournier/CBC)

There are only a handful of clam suppliers in the province, and Mills is by far the largest. LeBlanc said it's actually the largest producer of soft-shell clams in Canada.

LeBlanc said he supplies some of the local restaurants and stores, but that a large share of his production goes towards exports, with the U.S. and Asia being where the demand is highest.

About the Author

Gabrielle Fahmy

Reporter

Gabrielle Fahmy is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been a journalist with the CBC since 2014.