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L.L. Bean Sells Lobsters

Okay, so we mean Linda Lorraine Bean, but that “other” L.L. Bean happened to be her grandfather. Here’s a look at some of Linda’s memories, and her hopes for the future.

Liked her famed grandfather, Linda Bean is an entrepreneur on a mission. Leon Leonwood Bean founded his iconic L.L. Bean company with the idea that people would appreciate quality hunting boots that didn’t leak. Linda Lorraine Bean believes people will appreciate quality Maine lobster meat if she makes it easy to find, easy to eat and affordable.

So in 2007 she founded Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine ( up in Port Clyde, Maine and went to work. Now with restaurants and a retail line of seafood that drew big crowds at the recent International Boston Seafood Show, her dream is working its way into a reality — Walmart is already on her company’s list of blue chip customers.

We had a chat with Linda shortly after the show, and asked her about her famed grandfather, and what’s behind her dream.

What are some of your memories of your grandfather?
He loved to leave his office window open and just talk to people out on the street. And I remember he was a very active Red Sox fan, and listened to all their games. By the time I was knowledgeable about the business, he was fairly elderly — he died in 1967 at the age of 94.

Did you get to spend a lot of time with him?
Well, he loved family picnics, but he was very busy all the time. It wasn’t really common to do things with him. He was always in motion, and he had a big booming voice. I remember he had a bevy of assistants in his office, always typing labels for orders from the mail order business. He’d had a tough life — he was orphaned as a boy when both parents died within four days of each other, so he and his brothers and sisters were farmed out to different relatives.

What were your early years like?
I grew up in Freeport and Yarmouth, Maine, then went off to Antioch College in Ohio and majored in business administration. I worked a job throughout college, and shortly after that I married and had three sons. So in the early years, I was raising children. I ran a state-wide weekly news journal for about two and a half years, and I ran for Congress in 1988 and 1992. It was a big privilege just to run.

How’d you get involved in the lobster business?
I’ve always had a strong interest in agriculture, and now that I’m living on the coast in a fishing village, I’ve developed a big interest in Maine lobster and the guys fishing in small boats. They don’t ask the government for help, and they are the last bastion of rugged individualism as I see it in our state. But the cost of just owning a boat has gotten so high that many are leaving the business. Maine has a good and sustainable supply of lobsters, but not enough demand. I thought it would be wonderful to help them pass on their business to their kids and grandchildren, but I knew we needed to develop the market for lobster.

What steps are you taking?
I’m trying to get more processing of lobster here in Maine rather than in Canada. The industry needs to be vertically integrated here, from the boat to the table. We own and operate three wharves now, and have a processing plant in Rockland, Maine. We were the first to come out with a Source Identification Tag Program, which identifies the exact waters where the lobsters were caught by Maine fishermen using sustainable practices. People want to know where their seafood comes from and that it’s handled in ways they can trust. We’re working to bring Maine lobster to people through the grocery store, sandwich shops and the Internet.

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