ELLSWORTH — Desert Harvest, a North Carolina company that makes and distributes aloe vera products, is set to close on the purchase of the Maine Grind Building at 192 Main St. The family-owned company and 12 employees have all uprooted themselves to move to the Ellsworth area.
“We were looking for this type of environment, the work-life balance for myself and my staff,” CEO Heather Florio said.
Desert Harvest will take up the lion’s share of the building space. Flexit Café is the only occupant that will stay on, although the former building owner will open a Maine-themed shop, Florio said.
The building, a former Masonic Lodge, is owned by Winds Aloft LLC, according to property tax records. Owners Leslie Harlow and Peter Rogers put the building on the market in 2018.
Florio first started looking for a new location because of a family illness.
“Initially, what brought us here was my husband had cancer, which turned into sarcoidosis of his lungs,” she said. The North Carolina climate was not well-suited for his condition and Florio turned to New England, as her husband had been born and raised in Vermont.
But the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, through its Pine Tree Development Zones program, offered a better deal than Vermont, Florio said. Under this program, eligible businesses may reduce or eliminate state taxes for up to 10 years when they create new, quality jobs in certain business sectors, including manufacturing.
That’s when Florio began looking for a suitable Maine location and discovered it in Ellsworth. Desert Harvest is set to close on the sale of the Maine Grind Building on Dec. 4, but Florio and some of her staff were on the premises this week, with boxes piled at the bottom of the stairs.
This isn’t the first time that Desert Harvest has relocated out of state. The company started in Colorado Springs in 1993 and moved to North Carolina 17 years later when it lost its original location because of wildfires and forced evacuations, Florio said. Now the company has moved again.
“These are people, some of them their same family has lived in the same area for hundreds of years,” Florio said. “I was really humbled.”