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April 14, 2017

From a Portland corner, making soundwaves in the world

Courtesy / CBRE|The Boulos Co.
Courtesy / CBRE|The Boulos Co.
Independent Audio, a distributor ofprofessional audio equipment, moved into an existing warehouse/office building at 82 Gilman St. in Portland that was purchased for $700,000 in late March.

PORTLAND — A 4,920-square-foot warehouse/office building at 82 Gilman St. in Portland is the new digs for Independent Audio Inc., a nationwide distributor of top-quality professional audio equipment.

Fraser Jones, owner of Independent Audio, said the building has enough interior space to accommodate more inventory, while the loading dock will facilitate loading and unloading of trucks that transport exhibition equipment to trade shows all over the country.

Jones bought the property under the name Toddville LLC from Indicia LLC for $700,000. Tony McDonald, Jon Rizzo and Catie Seavey of CBRE|The Boulos Co. brokered the deal, which closed March 28.

Built in 1984, the space was most recently used for high-end photography shoots and catalog productions, a business known as The Studio at 82 Gilman, said Seavey, who represented the buyer. CBRE|The Boulos Co. advertised it as a warehouse/studio and office space opportunity.

It has on-site parking for five vehicles; 20-foot ceilings and loading dock with a 10-by10-foot overhead door in the insulated warehouse; several storage rooms and a bathroom on the first floor. The second floor consists of eight offices, a conference room, bathroom, storage/data room and kitchenette.

Warehouse space still in demand

The price reflects a strong market, said Seavey.

"This is the type of property that a lot of buyers are looking for — a small mixed-use building in Portland," she said. "When they come on the market, they typically go under contract quickly."

Independent Audio is a wholesale distribution operation, with no retail presence.

"We're a distribution company that sells professional recording equipment to the music, film, and broadcast industry," Jones said. "We have virtually no customers in Maine, other than Bob Ludwig of Gateway Mastering Studio. So our only visitors are the mailman and UPS."

Fraser hails from London, England. He landed in Maine 28 years ago, via Paris, France, after falling in love with "a lovely woman" from Portland. Previously, he was involved in the audio industry in London, but after moving here, he split his time between Maine and London as he built his career. He started his own business here 25 years ago.

"We import high-end, cutting-edge pro audio products from Europe, and distribute them throughout the U.S.," Jones said.

Today, he distributes products to dealers connected to big-name clients such as Stevie Wonder, NBCUniversal, ABC, CBS, Disney and Sony Pictures.

Most of the products he distributes are used for recording rather than live performance.

Selling his product lines through a national network of pro audio dealers rather than to end-users, Jones travels a fair amount — at least one week per month — to exhibit at industry trade shows, as well as to manufacturers in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe. He had recently returned from the National Association of Music Merchants trade show in Anaheim, Calif., and was planning a return out west for the National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas.

Jones said he didn't have any problem growing his business in Portland to revenues last year of $2.2 million with four employees plus himself.

"I started when the internet was in its infancy," he said, "and the internet was able to make us look like a big business. It was the right time and the right place, I had the right contacts in Europe, I had worked in the business in Europe for many years — and my English accent gives us a leg up, which opens a few doors."

Why the focus on European products?

"There are plenty of audio manufacturers in the U.S. that make fantastic products," he said. "Certainly the U.K. has always been a hotbed of music and music technology. It's just my little niche — getting the European product lines and bringing and introducing them to the U.S marketplace."

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