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Food store to get low-cost electricity allocation

A food store here is expected to become the third recipient of low-cost electricity from Niagara County's allocation from the Niagara Power Project.

New England Sea Food, which sells bulk groceries in a store at Ridge and Hartland roads, was approved for 75 kilowatts of power for the next three years by the board of Empower Niagara, a county agency set up to consider private-sector requests for chunks of the electricity the county was allotted when the Power Project was relicensed.

The County Legislature is to vote on the allocation Tuesday.

Louis Mead, who owns the business with his wife, Lori, said he plans a major expansion, adding 14 full-time jobs immediately to his current work force of 25.

Eight more jobs, five of them full time, are to be added in the next two years, Mead said.

"I have a 2,500-square-foot section [of the building] that we don't even use," he said. More food storage capacity is to be added.

"My whole company is run by electricity, because we repack from wholesale," Mead said, adding that his current electric bills average $8,000 a month.

"That's when I contacted Sen. [George D.] Maziarz, and he referred me to Sam Ferraro [the county economic development commissioner]," Mead said.

He isn't sure how much he'll save with the county's power, but he knows the bills will be lower.

Despite the name, New England Sea Food isn't just about fish. It sells meat, deli items and produce, too.

The store receives large bulk shipments of food items and repackages them into smaller lots for sale, Mead said.

The business was founded by his grandmother in 1968, and for several years was located in a plaza in Williamsville. When that was destroyed by fire, she found a site in Barker and moved there in 1980. New England Sea Food relocated 4 1/2 years ago to the former C.J. Perry & Son farm equipment dealership here.

The retail sales are in the front of the building, in a store called NES Food Outlet. "I have about 400 customers," Mead said.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, who serves on the Empower Niagara board, said the New England Sea Food application was just what the agency was looking for.

"They were looking to create some new jobs. They've been around for a while in Niagara County," Ross said. "They're homespun. That's kind of nice."

Previous allocations from Empower Niagara went to Russell Farms of Newfane, which received 180 kilowatts last June to help with the operation of a new controlled-atmosphere apple storage building, and Vishay Thin Film, a Wheatfield electronics company which received 85,000 kilowatts in December to reduce energy costs and keep its corporate parent from moving a production line to Mexico.

Mead, who lives in Barker, complimented the county's economic development staff, especially Deputy Commissioner Michael A. Casale, for helping with the application process. "Excellent," he said.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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