Can the L.L. Bean catalog heiress buoy Maine’s flagging lobster industry?
Linda Bean, granddaughter of L.L. Bean’s founder, aims to franchise restaurants across the U.S. that will serve tasty lobster rolls, with the main ingredient coming from fishing wharves she runs along the Maine coast.
Bean hopes to brand lobster the way Frank Perdue marketed broilers to American families, according to an article by GateHouse news service.
But her attempt to market a traditional high-end food – boiled Maine lobster – as an affordable sandwich for the middle-class also has an altruistic goal.
Maine’s lobster industry is largely made up of families that have been harvesting the seafood in the cold North Atlantic for generations.
But the market is highly dependent on the economy and the whims of diners at finer restaurants.
A fresh boiled lobster dinner is expensive and not widely available outside of Maine, since the crustaceans are flown live to restaurants, where they are kept in tanks before they are cooked.
Bean has tried to save money by controlling the process – from the dock to the lobster pound to the restaurant.
Her business is called Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine. She recently opened a sandwich shop in Freeport, Maine, home to the L.L. Bean flagship retail store. She is about to open a sit-down restaurant there, too.
She plans additional sandwich shops in Portland, Port Clyde and Camden, Maine, as well as Delray Beach, Florida. Eventually, she would like to see lobster rolls sold at walk-up restaurants and kiosks across the U.S.
The sandwiches she sells use a quarter-pound of lobster meat and are served on a hog-dog-style bun. The meat is boiled, not fried, and lightly flavored with seasoning.
In Freeport, the lobster roll sells for $14.50 with small bread-and-butter pickles and crunchy kettle chips on the side. Prices may be higher, depending on the location.
She describes the sandwiches as a healthy alternative to burgers.
Bean has bought wharves in Port Clyde, Vinalhaven and Tenant’s Harbor, tiny fishing communities along the state’s rocky coast where lobster men bring in their catch and tie up their boats.
She acquired a lobster pound that can hold 80,000 pounds of lobster, and plans to open a processing plant in Rockland, Maine, that will prepare and freeze the meat.
By owning the wharves and pound, she can assure the lobsters are caught using sustainable practices, according to GateHouse News.
“People want to know where their seafood is coming from, and that it’s handled in ways they can trust,” said Bean, who described Maine lobster as the best in the world.