PORTLAND — Luke’s Lobster is opening a wholesale seafood buying and shipping operation on the Portland Pier in the space formerly occupied by New Meadows Lobster.
Luke’s said it has entered into a long-term lease at 60 Portland Pier, the former site of New Meadows, which shut down at the end of 2017. Luke’s said it will begin lobster buying and shipping operations this week to ensure that there is no lapse in commercial fishing activity in the downtown area, and to provide Luke’s lobstermen partners an immediate economic opportunity.
“The wharf will allow commercial lobstermen to dock their boats and sell their sustainably caught seafood, lobster and crab, directly to Luke’s,” company spokeswoman Kalei Talwar said. “One-hundred percent of the Portland Pier catch will go directly to Luke’s own seafood company to be steamed, hand-picked and packed for serving directly to Luke’s Lobster guests around the world.”
The operation will be staffed initially by one person and will be scaled up as needed with additional staff, Talwar said.
“At this time we do not know what the scale or size of the operation will be,” she said. “We are hopeful that our maintaining the operation of this wharf will give existing and new fishermen another option to sell their catch and continue to strengthen Portland’s vibrant working waterfront.”
Luke’s also has plans to improve 60 Portland Pier as a berthing location for lobstermen, the company said in a news release.
“Portland’s working waterfront is a crucial part of the lobster industry, both for fishermen who rely on it to sell their catch, and for visitors to understand exactly what it takes to put the state’s signature dish on their plate,” Luke’s CEO and founder Luke Holden said in the release. “Operating Portland Pier is an opportunity for us to support our community and extend the tradition of the working waterfront for those who depend on it and for those who can learn from it.”
In March, former Portland Pier owner DiMillo’s on the Water sold the property to Portland Pier Holdings, a Portland-based real estate company that has owned property on Portland Pier for more than 20 years. Portland Pier Holdings CEO Jim Hanley said the partnership with Luke’s and local fishermen will protect and preserve the Portland Pier’s working waterfront.
Holden said Luke’s also has plans to improve the pier as a berthing location for lobstermen.
“We’re looking into putting in new floats for the lobstermen that dock here. Our hope is to outfit the new floats with water and electric, which hasn’t been available in the past,” he said. “We’re also brainstorming ways to enhance the public’s access to the waterfront through the Harborwalk Trail and make it more inviting.”
Luke’s operations include a Saco-based seafood company where 100 percent of the Portland Pier catch will be processed. While plans for a Luke’s Lobster restaurant in the currently vacant adjacent condo and office spaces is also under discussion, the company said no further development beyond the lobster station and structural fortification of the pier has been finalized.
Founded in 2009, Luke’s operates 29 seafood shacks across the country including Luke’s at Tenants Harbor in St. George. Luke’s is a member and co-founder of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s co-op, from which it buys 100 percent of the catch.
Luke’s Lobster is leasing 60 Portland Pier, the former site of New Meadows, from Portland Pier Holdings and aims to protect and preserve the working waterfront. (Portland Press Herald file photo)
Cape Elizabeth native Luke Holden, owner of Cape Seafood in Saco, also owns a chain of Luke’s restaurants in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and other major metro markets on the East Coast. He serves on the board of the Lobster Marketing Collaborative. (Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald)