It seems that the lobster industry has expanded in every direction imaginable. These creatures once thought of as poor man’s food are not only known as Maine’s top tourist meal, they have also become the number one best selling Maine souvenirs. Entrepreneurs have capitalized on inventing every crustacean creation thinkable, and they have made a fortune doing so.
The Ogunquit Trading Post, located on Route 1 in Moody, has been selling lobster merchandise for over 50 years now. Their large yellow sign above the door boasts: 10,000 Gifts. What it doesn’t say is that a fair chunk of those gifts are lobster-oriented, with items ranging any where from lobster magnets to lobster mugs. Lobster salt & pepper shakers, plush lobster slippers and lobster jewelry. They have it all. They even carry lobster soap.
“The lobster soap is a popular item,” Logan said. “Partially because it doesn’t smell like boiled lobster,” he added with a smile.
Of course, a souvenir store would not be complete without lobster sweatshirts and tee-shirts. According to Logan, the lobster apparel used to sell really well, but now it’s the moose clothing that’s selling.
The most frequently sold item however, is the stuffed lobster. “We sell out of these plush lobsters every single year,” said Logan. The cuddly toy lobsters are so popular that the store carries three different sizes.
The family-owned business is now run primarily by Clark Logan, who has been working there for the last 10 years with his father Edward. “My grandparents built this place in 1951,” said Logan. “It’s been in the family ever since.”
Another known lobster trap is Whispering Sands, which can be found on Main Street at Shorts Sands Beach in York. This is also a family-owned souvenir shop, now in its third generation. Co-owner Bill Thomson has been operating the store with help from various members of his family for the past 11 years.
“We all grew up in this store, and as kids, we all looked forward to working summers here,” said Thomson. “It’s all relative.”
From the store’s front window, plush lobsters perched on top of lobster traps peer out at the tourists walking by, beckoning them to come inside for a closer look. Once the shopper has entered the store they are sure to get caught up by all the many lobster products. The store has all the lobster cooking accessories under the sun such as potholders, dishtowels, aprons, wine holders, and butter dishes.
One of the most interesting items in this store are the red novelty party light in the shape of tiny lobsters. “People buy these lights for lobster cookouts or to decorate their RVs with,” said Thomson.
According to Thomson, one of his favorite lobster items is the lobster claw fanny pinchers. These funny little claws on a stick serve a variety of uses.
“I actually use these pinchers all the time in the store. Sometimes it’s for reaching an item that’s on a high shelf or adjusting something in the window that’s just difficult to reach,” said Thomson. “People with medical issues buy them a lot, too. If they have a hard time bending over, they’ll buy these things for everyday chores like just pulling up their socks.”
Lobster merchandise can also be caught at the Kittery Welcome Center located in the Kittery Outlets just off from Route 1. This store just opened in March. It is not just the average souvenir shop, as it also serves as an information center run by the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce.
This location, like many others, carries the ever popular lobster hats, which are a huge hit with tourists. Carrie Eisner of the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce said that a group of senior citizens who recently visited the chamber all left proudly wearing the lobster hats.
The Kittery Welcome Center sells many lobster items from paddleballs to purses. The lobster claw harmonica, however, takes the bait, and is said to be quite popular among both adults and children.
So when searching for that particular item that floats your lobster boat, instead of looking under the boardwalk or out by the sea, try one of the hot spots listed above, or any of the numerous tourist shops that dot the landscape.
Jessey Taylor is a reporter for the York County Coast Star.