Monday, September 9, 2013

My Hero: The Lobster Roll

I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend. I don't know about you, but I earned my Monday off.

The Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass festival (August 29th - September 1st) was quite an event. Dozens of bands performed and, from what festival goers had to say, some of them were really quite famous in the bluegrass world. I don't know a whole lot about the genre but I do know that it provided some pretty chill background tunes for working.

Zachy and I worked our butts off all weekend, each putting in more than 60 hours over the four day span.

Thursday was a slow start, dedicated mostly to setting up our booth and trying to explain to folks what exactly we were selling.

Can we talk about these signs the Fish Queen made for us? Pretty awesome if you ask me.

This was our first "event." Zach does his lobster bakes in people's homes and my mom prepares product in the store, but we have never before had a booth at a fair or festival. So, I was pretty impressed with our set-up.

On Friday business picked up a little as more people arrived at the festival. We cooked some lobster bakes, sold a few live lobsters and handed out a ton of business cards but mostly we took pre-orders for Saturday.

Saturday was busier. We did a nice dinner sitting and had quite a few happy customers. We even had a few customers show up for seconds. But it just wasn't enough.

As it turned out, lobster bakes at a festival are tough. First, many of the festival goers were camping and were cooking their own food back at their campsites. Second, we were competing with sausages, french fries, fried dough, lobster rolls, and other snackables. While some were looking to sit down and have a nice meal and listen to music, most just wanted to grab something quick and move on. You can't really eat a whole lobster while walking around.

By Saturday night, Zach and I were pretty down. We had come into the festival pumped up and ready to serve a ton of classic Maine lobster bakes. Not only had we failed to do that, we had also spent three days directing people to the cart across from us who was selling lobster rolls, fish and chips, fried clams, and various other seafood. That absolutely killed us.

For the last 10 years my brother and I have been focused on trying to convince people to eat OUR seafood. So, it goes against the grain for us to shake our heads and point to the other guy. All weekend we were mobbed with people coming up to our booth and telling us how much they love Gurnet Trading Co. and asking if they could get a lobster roll. We had to delicately explain to them that we were only allowed to sell our lobster bake meals and live lobsters, if they wanted something else they would have to go to the other guy. Making us send business to a competitor is a sure fire way to dampen our spirits and crush our souls.

Thoroughly broken and ready to give up, my brother begged an audience with the festival manger on Sunday morning. Just as I arrived at Zach's Country Store, I received a text from my brother telling me to start loading stuff without him; he had a plan. We were late opening up our booth; but when we did, it was rearranged as a lobster roll assembly line.

We sold more than 150 lobster rolls, obliterating Gurnet's one day record. In fact, we sold so many lobster rolls in such a short period of time the Fish King and Queen were cooking and picking lobsters themselves to make sure we didn't run out.

Our lobster bakes had covered our entrance fees but the lobster roll saved the day and justified my brother's and my hard work.

I'm not sure we will go back to the Bluegrass Festival as vendors, but I do know we walked away on Sunday feeling damn good about providing a quality product to folks in the 11th hour. We received a killer shout out from one of the bands and had people coming back for seconds and even thirds. That is what we are about, even if it means taking a beating sometimes.