What’s more synonymous with Maine than the lobster? If you’re a shopper, you might think instead of L.L. Bean, the Freeport outdoor store that sells all things well made.
Linda Bean, the granddaughter of the retailer’s founder, is combining the quality associated with her grandfather’s legacy and the best of Maine’s lobsters. She aims to be to lobster what Frank Purdue is to chicken – and she’s putting her money and the power of her name behind it with her new company, Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine.
“People want to know where their seafood is coming from, and that it’s handled in ways they can trust,” said Bean, who also thinks Maine needs to toot its own horn a bit.
The cold waters along midcoast Maine make the lobsters caught there better than anywhere in the world, Bean said recently at the International Seafood Show in Boston where she was showcasing her company’s products. But the region’s industry has suffered from having inconsistent markets, making it difficult for lobstermen to make a living.
Although she’d worked summers in her family’s store, raised a family and run a publishing business, Bean, whose middle name also starts with an “L” – for Lorraine – had never been in the fishing business. But after a divorce, she saw an opening to make a new start for herself and for midcoast Maine’s lobster industry which had fallen on hard times.
In 2007, Bean bought a wharf in Port Clyde, then a second in Vinalhaven in 2008 and then a third in Tenant’s Harbor this year. She also purchased a lobster pound that can hold 80,000 pounds of lobster.
From there Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine lobsters, each with a bracelet tag identifying what wharf it came from, are shipped across the country and showcased in live lobster tanks. By owning the wharves and pound, she can assure the lobsters are caught using sustainable practices.
“Lobster has never been branded before,” Bean added. “We have the best, the sweetest meat here in Maine with its cold waters.”
Processing is key to keeping the lobster market flowing, Bean said. While hard-shell lobsters, like the ones served in restaurants, can be shipped to restaurants and food retailers around the country, Maine is capable of having a year-round business with soft-shells that don’t ship well and are more suited as “processor” grade, Bean said.