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Fall 2014
Lobster’s On a Roll

A lobster boat kiosk, Linda Bean Lobster Boat Café, has docked at the Maine Mall in Portland, charting a course to boost the state’s economy.

It was nearly three years ago that Rochelle Desrosiers walked The Maine Mall on her first day as Business Development Representative and was struck by what she didn’t see at the center. Maine might be known for lobster, but despite the mall being just three miles from the coast, there was nary a lobster in sight. The mall had been looking to bring local flavor to its offerings and as Desrosiers set out on this mission, she realized that arguably, nothing said “Maine” better than lobster and LL Bean.

For years now, with a view to bolstering the state’s economy, Linda Bean, granddaughter of the illustrious LL Bean, set up the company Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine. In 2007, riding on a synergy between the company’s objectives and the explosive growth of the “locavore” phenomenon, Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine launched its trap-to-table production line—from lobster boats to a Linda Bean restaurant. The initiative has grown from a 400,000-pound start-up seven years ago to an anticipated nine million pounds this year. But lobsters are not the only Maine product that curries Linda Bean’s favors. The state’s wild blueberries and maple syrup are also under the company’s umbrella. Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine wild and natural products are being positioned for green and sustainable markets nationwide.

Lobsters dock

xxxLinda-Bean-Lobster-Roll-and-ChowderWhen Desrosiers approached Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine with a view of bringing the Bean lobster restaurant to the mall, it was a perfect match with the company’s objectives of spreading the Maine message to a wide audience. Within months, planning and construction commenced on a looming “mall docked” lobster boat, positioned in the heart of the shopping center’s common area.

The creative collaboration between General Growth Properties and Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine has resulted in a “boat café,” a kiosk concept that simultaneously enhances and educates the visitor about the productive lobster industry while offering a signature product with high consumer demand. The restaurant portion of the kiosk serves Linda’s most popular quick meals, including her now famous lobster roll. The roll and other grilled panini can be complemented with chowder, Maine blueberry pie, Maine soft drinks, Maine Cellardoor wines and handcrafted Maine beers. Bean, a sponsor of the Maine Red Claws basketball team, has paired up with Gritty’s, a popular Maine brewery, to bring Red Claws Ale to the mall lobster boat location. Live lobsters can be chosen right from the tank to be cooked and eaten on “the docks” that surround the
lobster boat.

The boat’s design pays homage to the state’s lobster boat meme, complete with a cooking crew wearing rubber wellies beneath the skylights. The kiosk’s décor consists of maps produced by Delorme, one of the world’s pre-eminent map makers with a home base just down scenic Route 1 from LL Bean in Freeport, Maine; buoys from lobstermen in Knox County; and a Lobster Touch Tank for Kids by Maine Ecological Habitats in Biddeford.

Shoppers have flocked to the sunny tables beneath the skylights, and retail managers have praised the center for providing a memorable setting to showcase nationally renowned Maine foods and wine. Linda Bean feels confident about strong patronage year-round. “We are all about the traveling and shopping public,” Bean says. “The Maine Mall is at a perfect crossroads and we are thrilled to be providing a very different [and] new experience for mall shoppers.”

Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor specializing in retail and the book publishing industry. Learn more at wordcumulus.wordpress.com.
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