James Crimp and Stephenie MacLagan are associates with the Island Institute's Marine and Economic Development programs.
What is one way that the Island Institute promotes economic development on the coast of Maine? Our staff love to visit local stores when we travel!
On November 10, we, Stephenie and James, were invited to the Downeast and Acadia Regional Tourism Symposium at the Schoodic Institute to speak about the work we do to connect seafood harvesters and the tourism industry. While we had a great time at the symposium (and you can learn more about our work around Marine Tourism here), the organizers were smart enough to wrap up the event early in the afternoon, giving us time not just to talk about tourism, but to be tourists!
The plan worked, and on this sunny afternoon at the tail-end of shoulder season, we found ourselves driving into the adjacent town of Winter Harbor with a map in one hand and pocket book in the other, ready to see the local sites and inject some of our own money into the local economy.
As staff members of the marine and economic development programs at the Island Institute, naturally our first stop was the Winter Harbor Lobster Coop right off the main road in town. For the middle of November, the co-op was bustling, and the long, slim harbor that it sits in was still packed with boats, sheltered in pretty much every direction from wind and weather--it is easy to imagine how the town got its name.
Though it was almost closing time, one of the workers welcomed us into their retail space, where they sell live lobster as well as picked lobster and crab-meat. We were surprised to hear that they also sell their product online, providing a great way to diversify the co-op’s income stream. Through their awesome website, people that have travelled to Winter Harbor in the past can think back fondly on their visit while ordering boxes of live lobster to be shipped overnight to anywhere in the continental US, perfect for those who love seafood-filled holidays!
Our next stop was Grindstone Neck of Maine, a family-owned gourmet smokehouse on Route 186 going into town. They smoke right on site, everything from cheeses to salmon to shellfish! We received a warm welcome from Carl and his son Mason, and they answered all our rapid-fire questions about seafood sourcing, product quality, and more.
Both had recently participated in a Smoked Seafood School, located in James’ home state of Alaska, and after talking salmon for a little bit, Mason retreated into the backroom for a second before returning with four portions of a test-batch of smoked salmon on a stick, fresh out of the hot-smoker. Holy smokes, it was good! We left with full stomachs and plenty of new knowledge about seafood, a topic about which these guys are clearly experts.
Our last stop was the Schoodic Marine Center, a new acquisition of Acadia National Park and a landing for the passenger ferry service that transports visitors from Bar Harbor and the main section of the park to its lesser known, but equally as beautiful, land on Schoodic Peninsula. After getting dropped off here in Winter Harbor, visitors can tour the town or get picked up by the Island Explorer and shuttled to the park’s myriad hiking trails or rocky southern tip. While the center was closed for the season, we had a good time exploring the outside of the facility, and can see the potential for the center to become a valuable addition to the town, as documented in The Working Waterfront article here.
Even in the off-season, Winter Harbor is a beautiful and happening place to visit. Those we met were very friendly, fostering the small-town feel that Winter Harbor is known for. Next time you're visiting the "quiet side" of Acadia National Park, be sure to check out the local establishments; it'll be worth the stop!