The next few posts are going to be about Maine's people, about lobstermen and sternmen (and by the way those titles encompass both genders) who have a story to tell. The Ghost Trap isn't about lobsters. It's about the characters who work hard, live hard and inspire us not to complain about an 8-hour day. Summah time is heating up. Let's see who's up on the docket.
Meet cutie pie brothers John and Brendan Ready, owners and operators of Catch A Piece of Maine. Recently featured by US Airways Magazine (which I happened to recently see on my flight home ) the Ready Brothers have come up with a fresh solution to Maine's morass when it comes to marketing the lobster brand. According to the US Airways article, "The Ready brothers graduated with degrees in business from Boston’s Northeastern University and Stonehill College in nearby Easton, Massachusetts. And they both knew they were coming home to Portland. 'You can walk down the street and still see fishing boats, and on the other side, boutiques,' John Ready says. 'It’s the best of both worlds.' "
What they're doing is they're allowing customers to own and receive their very own “share” of the catch direct from their crew of personal lobsterman. This model is very similar to CSAs, which is a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. We're in a global trend where a lot of people want to know local food comes from. We're in a social media culture where we also want to know who butchers it, grows it, farms it, catches it. The Ready Brothers understand this. That's where they bring the "personal" in. For example, they offer a "Premium Partnership, where you actually own a lobster trap in Maine and all of its catch for the entire year to be shipped to any destination of our choice, or a 'Lobster Share' entitling you to a gourmet dinner for four delivered anywhere in the country." Their promise entails: "Most importantly, we are bringing you closer to the dock allowing us to sell direct so that we as lobsterman earn a premium and effectively preserve the traditional working waterfront."
This more than anything, makes them my heroes. We have a lobstering industry that is breaking its back. There are plenty of lobsters to be caught, but Perfect Storm of a double dip recession, encroaching government regulations, an exorbitant rise in bait/fuel and shockingly low (some say price fixed) boat prices are devastating the livelihood of so many of our lobster fishermen. The rising voices of the lobstering industry have been calling for innovation in terms of branding and marketing and these guys have simply taken what is fascinating (the lives and hard work of lobstermen) and turned it into a viable market.
According to their website:
Catch a Piece of Maine was created, with the help of family, friends, and fellow lobstermen, in part as a response to the financial realities of the lobstering industry and as a means to introduce you to our traditions, trade and the sea. Through Catch a Piece of Maine we have toppled the barriers between lobsterman and consumer, allowing those who love to eat the freshest most delicious lobster a chance to get to know the dedicated lobsterman who harvests their dinner. Bringing the consumer closer to the dock allows us to sell direct so that we as lobsterman earn a premium and effectively preserve the traditional working waterfront.
We as lobsterman are all stewards of the sea; always making sure today’s catch is available for tomorrow’s lobsterman. Our industry exemplifies hard work, tradition, heritage, and sustainability. We pride ourselves on our eco-friendly manner of harvesting, producing little to no by-catch and enforcing strict laws to allow the release of all lobsters too small and too large. Lobstering is hard work and capital intensive, requiring boats that cost as much as a house, on top of equipment, traps and fuel. In the past several years the price of bait and fuel has tripled while we’ve watched our working waterfront slowly disappear.
Stay tuned for more stories of people who exemplify the word True Mainer.
Columns about the sub-culture of lobstering that K. Stephens has collaborated on with Maine lobstermen and guest bloggers.