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Linda Bean expands her lobster holdings

Linda L. Bean recently purchased the Carver’s Harbor, Vinalhaven, lobster wharf and buying station formerly owned by Shafmaster of New Hampshire, doing business as Little Bay Lobster Co.

Bean, a member of the Freeport retailing family, also purchased the lobsters from a “floating” buying station owned by Peter Jones, who will run the combined facility. “I bought the real estate and I have arranged to buy his lobster supply,” she said. Jones will lease the former Shafmaster property for his bait facility.

The Vinalhaven dock is expected to turn over around two million lobsters this summer, depending on the state of the resource. Bean’s lobster holdings now represent 10 percent of the total landings in Knox County, home to the highest landings in Maine in recent years.

“He asked if I would improve the property with a building for bait, because he plans to go into the bait business,” Bean said. An existing building on the property proved unsuitable, so it was removed and a new building will be built.

Jones does business under the name Harborside Lobster Co. Two other lobster buyers still remain on the island — the co-op and Inland Seafoods.

The lobster pound and lobster dock in Port Clyde she purchased last year, formerly known as Bay Lobster Co., currently produce far fewer lobsters than Vinalhaven, although 25 boats are expected to sell their product there this summer including some from Monhegan, Cushing, Spruce Head and Tenants Harbor.

She currently adds no profit to the bait and fuel sold at her dock “because I’m in the lobster business, not the bait or fuel business.”

“We’re outgrowing our capacity in Port Clyde,” said Bean. “We are looking for a place in Rockland.” In mid-May, Bean had looked at two locations in Rockland to expand her Port Clyde Lobster company and was planning to look at two more. “We want to shift the emphasis to value-added,” she explained.

She recently hired John Petersdorf, 36, a veteran of Atwood Lobster Co., as vice president and general manager of her lobster and shrimp operations. The Port Clyde facility was licensed last year to buy wild Maine shrimp.

Already, Bean produces Port Clyde Lobster Stew, a frozen stew in an eight-ounce pouch with two four-ounce servings, aimed at retail consumers. The stew is made with all Maine products “except the Marsala wine.” It contains Kate’s butter, Oakhurst heavy cream and Port Clyde lobster processed at Shucks Maine Lobster in Richmond and “our own seasonings.”

“It’s a creamy lobster stew, not typical of our local stews, but preferred by the market I decided to go after — New York and Boston,” said Bean. She introduced the stew at the International Boston Seafood Show, then took it to a similar show in Brussels, Belgium, this spring, where it proved a hit.

The next product Port Clyde Lobster will launch is expected to be a lobster roll. Bean has plans also to make and market value-added products that include Maine shrimp and crab.

She said she uses Shucks to process the meat because it’s humane, and she’s part of a group trying to achieve certification for Maine lobster as a sustainably harvested product under the Marine Stewardship Council.

“Being certified as sustainably fished and humanely processed opens new markets” such as Europe where concerns about product origin and treatment are more prevalent, said Bean. “Lobster fishing is not just a pretty picture for the tourists. It’s a lifestyle. We need more working waterfronts, and more markets. It’s a lot of work.”