We’ve all been there. Desperate to eat a fresh lobster dinner in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, unable to order up a single crustacean to call our own.
Okay, well, maybe we haven’t all been there. In fact, that scenario is probably a problem unique to Googlers attending Burning Man this year. Unless one lives in Maine in specific, or New England more generally, lobster is far from daily dining fare. Perhaps it comes up as an order at an especially celebratory dinner from time to time, but other than that, the starring player at a clam bake can be hard to come by.
But, perhaps not for much longer if the fishermen at Lobster 207 have anything to say about it.
Lobster 207 is a creation of Maine’s lobstering union, and it exists to put lobsters in the hands of more customers by tapping into the wonders of the internet and its vast network of connections to bring seafood to the doors of the desiring, any place in the nation.
And, according to its founders, it is a very union type of firm — from the 400 members of the lobstermen union, to the plant workers who pack them and the teamsters who drive them.
“We have been fighting years for a sustainable fishery here in Maine, and now we are fighting for sustainable fishermen for future generations to come,” said David Sullivan, manager of the union’s new mail order business. “That means diversifying our business operations, owning as much of the supply chain as possible and taking advantage of our strengths, working with our union brothers and sisters.”
The Lobster 207 site offers more than a chance to order up lobster, noted Sullivan; it is also a chance for consumers to develop a greater understanding of the people and places that produce their seafood. The site includes video interviews with fishermen about why they fish, as well as the story of the union.
The goal is simple: By cutting out the middlemen of seafood dealers and distributors and negotiating directly with UPS, the lobstering union thinks it can capture more of the profit from retail sales seafood and make lobsters a bit more accessible for consumers at the same time.
“As a union operation, we really worked hard to get shipping rates that help us make lobster affordable for the everyday person,” Sullivan said. “Out in Kansas City, the only place you’re going to find lobster is at a fancy restaurant. Most grocery stores don’t even sell it there. It’s a luxury item. But we are making it affordable for everybody.”
The going rate for lobster is $9 a pound, shipping them in boxes that range from five to 50 pounds.
And, more importantly, it gives lobstermen a chance to actually develop a relationship with their consumers, Sullivan noted. In the past, he said, union members would run into tourists who would ask to buy their lobsters, only to have to turn them down because that’s not how the system worked.
“Now that we’ve got the online operation up, they can [say] yes, go to our website. We’ve had members pull out their phone[s] right there and [show] people how to find their business, buy their lobster, watch their stories,” Sullivan said. “The guys, they’re so proud of that. The dividend from the online business will be nice, but they really love the fact that they’re selling their own lobster now.”