The Timeline of Getchell Brothers Inc.
The Early Years, 1888-1920
In the spring of 1888 two young brothers ventured into the rugged and competitive ice business. Fourteen year old J. Calvin and fifteen year old Fred had started Getchell Brothers Ice Company. The company was founded on the concept of superior service to the residents of Brewer.
Originally ice was harvested along the Penobscot River near South Brewer. Later the harvesting operation moved to the Kenduskeag Stream just below the Bullseye Bridge and an office was established on Oak Street in Bangor. In 1890, Getchell Brothers was one of about 20 ice companies in the Bangor area; by 1920 only Getchell Brothers remained. During the harvest season up to 1000 tons of ice could be packed away in a day.
In 1945, Ralph Getchell Jr. built a modern block ice plant in Brewer using an ammonia refrigeration system. In those days manufactured ice was called “artificial ice.” In 1949, the first coin-operated vendor was put into operation on Hammond Street, Bangor. This was the first time ice was available other than by home delivery. February 1954 marked the end of an era when the last natural ice was harvested from the Kenduskeag. Getchell Brothers moved their offices to Brewer and continued shifting their focus of ice distribution. More coin operated vendors were placed and in 1959 the first seven ice merchandisers were used to allow stores to share in the profit from ice sales.
Third generation, Will and Louise Getchell Farnham led the company to meet the growing demand for packaged ice in the tourism driven industry. The first Turbo Ice maker was installed at our Brewer, Maine ice plant in 1978. Throughout the 1980s expansion of the company into southern Maine markets and the increased demand resulted in the installation of several more large ice makers in Brewer. The fourth generation of family ownership led further expansion and modernization. In 1999, a new plant was built at 1913 Main St in Sanford, Maine. The ice plant in Sanford has been continuously upgraded and now can produce more than 360,000 pounds of tube ice per day in a modern and efficient manufacturing facility. Our first palletizing robot was installed in Sanford.
Other Than Ice…
Up to now you’ve read about the ice business of Getchell Brothers, throughout the years, the company has tried several other businesses to complement the ice business. Lumber, firewood, honey wagons, brick making, coal, home heating oil, cold storage, window coverage, Stewart sandwiches, and Hoff pies are in the documented sideline businesses. In 1983, the Sealtest distributorship became available and the ice cream business started. Over the next years Giffords, Ben & Jerry’s, and Blue Bunny were examples of some of the ice cream brands distributed by our drivers.
In the fall of 2016 a 54,000 square foot warehouse on 65 Coffey Street in Bangor, Maine was purchased to become the new location of ice production and storage. This is the first time in the Bangor/Brewer history that ice making is no longer on or beside the Penobscot River or Kenduskeag Stream. The Brewer plant was showing its age and investment was needed to allow for future demand and modern technology. Ice production began at the new location in Bangor during the spring of 2017. The new plant is modern, spacious and open. 6 loading docks and ample parking provide much needed space for the trucks and drivers. The equipment is energy efficient and includes tube ice making machines which can produce 240,000 pounds of ice per day. The equipment is controlled by “touch screen” capability. Our 4 production lines can bag 120 tons of ice in 7 hours which is stacked on pallets by a robot. The size of the warehouse provided the option to enter into the Cold Storage business with a 2000 pallet capacity freezer. Although we miss being along the water, the new modern technology makes it easier to get our premium high quality ice to our customers faster than ever before and as they have come to expect since 1888.