The building that was home to Em Bee Cleaners for more than 50 years before the business succumbed to new environmental regulations in July has been bought by Good Earthkeeping Organization, a Corona, Calif.-based company that specializes in environmental remediation.

Grant Geckeler, Chief Financial Officer for GEO, said the sale came about after a chance meeting with Em Bee owners Connie and Peter Sarnaki in which he learned about the history of the building and their desire to sell.

Geckeler and GEO president and founder Carol Winell were moved by the history of the building — a former work clothes manufacturer, padlock assembly plant and printing house, and one of the few nineteenth-century downtown buildings to survive a pair of fires that leveled much of downtown in the 1800s. They also fell in love with the city of Belfast and its residents.

“For us, from California, it’s sort of out of a fairy tale book,” he said.

GEO plans to renovate the building in the near future, but Geckeler said there are no concrete plans for what will happen next. His company has considered opening East Coast offices in the building and other options are on the table, he said, but the immediate focus would be on cleaning up and renovating the property.

“The 5,000 foot view is to initially remediate the site and get a clean bill of health, then learn more about the building and its history and restore it to as near as the original condition as we can,” he said. To this end, he said he would seek public input on what kind of use would benefit the year-round community.

The arrival of an environmental clean-up company on the scene comes too late for Em Bee Cleaners, which closed on July 30 in the face of new standards from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection surrounding vapor intrusion into soil.

Connie Sarnacki said her equipment, typical of many dry cleaning establishments, didn’t meet the new standards and would have been too expensive to replace. She had begun to clean up the site, had installed a radon system and hired lawyers to defend the business. But ultimately she ran out of money.

Em Bee Cleaners had operated out of the building at 126 Church Street since 1956. Sarnacki took over the business from her father, who began working for Em Bee — the name, Sarnacki said, derived from the company’s founders, named Emma and Beatrice — when the company was based in Winterport.

She recalled walking through the Belfast building shortly after Em Bee moved in and encountering stacks of colored papers on the third floor, remnants of the printing company that previously operated out of the building.

“It was every child’s dream,” she said. “There was every color of paper to write on.”

Over the years, Em Bee became a Belfast fixture and many residents, including Sarnacki, expected the business — the only dry cleaner in Waldo County — to be there for years.

In a farewell letter to the editor published in July, Sarnacki wrote, “We survived the polyester leisure suit era of the ’70s; the stock market crash in the ’80s; the ice storm in the ’90s, and we hoped, maybe, this economic downturn we are all experiencing today.”

They didn’t, and Sarnacki said she doubts that there will ever be another dry cleaning operation in Belfast, given the current regulations. As of Dec. 21, she was working through the slow process of moving out.

“It should be beautiful [after the renovation]. I couldn’t sell it to better people,” she said. “They love the building and they have a great plan for it, but it’s very painful to have been involved in something since I was a baby and it’s gone.”

Geckeler of GEO said he believes any remaining contamination at the Em Bee Cleaners building is minimal and that his company’s work will primarily involve taking samples to demonstrate to the DEP that the environmental issues have been resolved.

The ground floor of the building is currently leased to Archangel Computers, and Geckeler said GEO would extend that agreement through the spring while his company does preliminary work to satisfy the DEP requirements. He said he hopes to start renovations by summer, at which point, the building might need to be vacated for a period of time.