A powerful winter storm that left thousands without power for days and brought devastation to communities all along the Maine coast in December also struck a blow at Linda Bean’s lobster empire, though the ultimate impact on the high-profile business is unclear.
The storm that struck just days before Christmas destroyed a wharf in Tenants Harbor that served as one of three lobster buying stations on Penobscot Bay for the employee-owned, Rockland-based Bean Maine Lobster, Inc. The company also buys lobsters at wharfs in Port Clyde and in Vinalhaven.
A spokesman in the town of St. George assessor’s office (Tenants Harbor is a village in St. George) said that Bean leased the wharf, which has been condemned as unsafe, from an entity known as Tenants Harbor Sunshine LLC, which shares an address in Vassalboro with Bean Management LLC. Sunshine acquired the former Witham’s Lobster wharf in 2009.
According to Tweedie, the storm had washed out the wharf’s underpinnings, rendering it unsafe.
The Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, located further up the harbor at the former Miller’s Wharf, is currently the largest lobster buying operation in Tenants Harbor. Eric Tweedie, a former lobsterman himself, manages the co-op.
Tweedie said that after the December storm, representatives of Prock Marine, a construction company based in Rockland that specializes in the construction and repair of wharfs, piers, and other large marine projects, came to Tenants Harbor to assess the condition of the
Bean company’s wharf. According to Tweedie, the storm had washed out the wharf’s underpinnings, rendering it unsafe.
With Prock reportedly unable to start repair work for a year, the wharf was shut down. That forced the ten or so boat captains who unloaded at the wharf to find another place to sell their lobsters. Some of them, Tweedie said, have gone to Port Clyde, where Bean also has a lobster buying operation. A few have come to the co-op, at least for the time being. Tweedie said that he’d heard that the wharf “might open again, but it’s not assured.”
Steve Cartwright, a St. George selectman, said he’d heard from a fisherman that Linda Bean might “fix up” the wharf as a private dock, but that the select board had no official reaction to the wharf’s closing.
“The entire board feels very strongly about preserving working waterfront,” he said.
Efforts to reach Bean Maine Lobster Inc. were unsuccessful.
What the closure of the wharf means for Tenants Harbor is unclear. Through a separate but related entity, Linda Bean operates the Tenants Harbor General Store in town, but as of early June no one in the assessor’s office or in the store itself had heard any rumors about its future.
On its website in early June, the store was advertising several jobs including cashier, deli, and seasonal stock worker positions and offering “a very competitive pay.”
There are no obvious signs that the Tenants Harbor wharf situation is having any impact on any other Bean-branded companies.
The employee-owned Bean Maine Lobster Inc. continues to buy and ship live lobsters, primarily in the wholesale market, from its Rockland plant.
Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster, Inc., an all-woman owned business, is based in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The venture sells live lobster and lobster products sourced from Bean Maine Lobster, as well as other Maine food items, at both a physical location in Myrtle Beach and via the internet.
Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine owns and operates a network of lobster-focused restaurants in Port Clyde, Freeport, Ogunquit, and at the Portland International Jetport. It also operates the high-end general store on the main street of Tenants Harbor and another, next to the Monhegan Island ferry dock in Port Clyde, which will open soon, according to its website.