Sometimes, I think, people forget that fishermen are harvesters of seafood. Even fishermen themselves might need a reminder occasionally that the product they pull out of the water, fish, lobster, or scallop, will end up in someone’s belly. With all the regulations and rules to follow, boat maintenance to manage, and gear adjustments to figure out, the part about the seafood getting from the wharf to the table is sometimes best left to someone else. And, for the fishermen, it’s best when they can have a good relationship with that someone else.
When visitors come to Maine, they are often seeking water views, mountain trails, and fresh seafood. Lobster shacks pop up all along Route 1 from Southern Maine to Downeast Maine and allow visitors the opportunity to eat buttery lobster rolls and wicked fresh lobsters while sitting at a picnic table and staring at boats. And this summer, a new restaurant will open in Portland on Commercial St., at Portland Pier specifically, that will elevate a tourist’s or Mainer’s or whoever’s experience of eating lobster by the water. Luke Holden and Ben Conniff have opened over forty restaurants around the world, and now they are bringing the Luke’s Lobster experience home to Maine.
Holden is from Cape Elizabeth and married a friend of mine from high school, Laisee. They also have the cutest little girl named Poppy. I asked Laisee a few questions about being married to someone that works in the lobster industry. See, much like how an ornithologist probably has a lot of bird items around their house, families tied to lobster sometimes have a lot of lobsters around their house. (We also have a lot of pictures of boats in our house.) I asked Laisee if, when Poppy was born, they received a lot of baby gear adorned in Homarus Americanus? “Yes, and we love it! In Maine work colleagues often feel more like family, and there’s nothing like having a child to remind you of how much love and support surrounds you. We love dressing Poppy in the Maine lobster dresses and onesies she receives as gifts. It’s fun that there’s so much Maine pride! One group Luke works with calls themselves ‘Sons of the Claw’ (a play on the show, Sons of Anarchy) and gave Poppy an SOC sweatshirt that says ‘prospect’.” And, of course, when I asked about their favorite piece of lobster gear for Poppy, “[She] received her first pair of Grundéns from one of the lobstermen from the Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Co-op, which Poppy will be using in no time.”
The Holden Family also recently bought a home in Southern Maine. Which, according to Laisee, “We tried not to go too heavy on nautical-themed house stuff, but how can you not have a lobster pillow or two? Also, our house was built in 1905, and there's a pair of unique fish lights that are special.”
So, what does all of that have to do with opening a seafood restaurant on a pier in Portland? Family. Family is a shared value amongst many people working in and for the fishing industry. Perhaps it’s because we know that there are risks fishermen take every time they leave the wharf, or there are seasons when fishermen don’t spend nearly as much time with their family as they’d like because they have to go when the weather is good, or because people working for the industry rely heavily on their colleagues and neighbors to help make things work. But family is one of the values that makes the fishing community, coastal neighbors, and family-owned businesses so wonderful and so quintessential Maine. Laisee says it perfectly, “People in the lobster industry are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet. We wanted to raise our children in Maine because of the values it fosters. Mainers support and help each other succeed and are generally humble and grounded people. There’s a strong sense of connected community. Once I married someone in the lobster industry, I felt this even more.”
And, when I asked Laisee what her favorite seafood was, her response was no surprise, “I love lobster mac & cheese, and of course lobster rolls from Luke’s Lobster!”
Check out this video about Luke’s Lobster