Marketplace: Freshies Lobster Co. is on a roll
Owners aim to deliver authentic taste of New England
When Ben and Lorin Smaha started selling lobster rolls out of a 10-foot by 10-foot canopy tent at farmer’s markets around 2009, it was a hobby, a chance to make a little bit of cash on the side. They had no inkling it would ever turn into something more.
But then their reputation started growing. A few years later, they moved out of the tent and into a food trailer when it was clear that Parkites craved the fresh lobster they were serving up.
Last month, they took the next step — one they never envisioned. The Smahas opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant at 1897 Prospector Ave. There, hungry Parkites and visitors will be able to feast on Freshies Lobster throughout the year instead of waiting for the trailer to open during the summer at the Park Silly Sunday Market.
Already, Lorin Smaha said, the loyal following Freshies Lobster Co. has built up over the years is already salivating, and the Smahas are delighted at the evolution of their company. The menu has expanded, but customers will recognize the same succulent taste when they bite into a lobster roll.
“Doing it on the side has been the perfect thing for us,” she said. “But this spot opened up, and we liked the smallness of it and thought we could keep it simple. The space allows me to have a little more creativity, but we’re going to keep it just simple, good food.”
Opening the restaurant after so many years working farmer’s markets has been exciting. And it’s also allowed Freshies to hit the ground running in the restaurant’s first winter season. The Smahas are grateful for the all the support they’ve received so far and are aiming to build an even larger following.
“We’ve had so many people who are tourists come in here strictly because they see our Yelp reviews, which are really high,” Lorin Smaha said. “It’s really cool. I think it’s a great way for people who want to get into the restaurant industry to test out the waters and see if it’s going to work.”
Customers who visit based on the reputation of the lobster rolls will find a full menu at Freshies. In addition to the fare the company is known for, the new space allows it to offer dishes such as clam chowder, grilled cheese and barbecue chicken sandwiches and pesto salad. The aim was to ensure that, while fresh lobster is the fresh draw, there are options for customers who want something else.
“I think people are pleasantly surprised by the other things on the menu,” Lorin Smaha said. “You can get a salad or a vegetarian sandwich, too. We wanted to make sure that if everyone in a group wanted to get lobster but one person didn’t, we could still offer something for that person.”
The Smaha’s hope customers who visit Freshies Lobster immediately notice the authenticity of the food. The Smahas both grew up in the Northeast, and Ben Smaha recalls spending many days fishing for lobster off the shores of Maine. Before he moved to Park City, in fact, he had a recreation lobster license and would host a lobster bake each week for at-risk youth.
“Growing up around the industry on the coast of Maine, around lobster fishermen and fishing myself, it’s always been a part of me,” he said.
In the spirit of that, Freshies flies in its buns daily, as well as the lobster, straight from a few of Ben Smaha’s high school friends who still fish for lobster in Maine. And Lorin Smaha, who is from New Hampshire, tries to use as many ingredients unique to the New England area as possible in the menu.
It’s important to the Smahas that the flavors deliver a taste of home for customers who also grew up eating lobster rolls in the northeast. Customers often tell them how the food is packed with nostalgia, taking them back to the first time they had a lobster roll or to a happy memory of New England.
“That’s why we spend a lot of money shipping in overnight to get everything fresh,” she said. “We could easily try to get a bun out here to do it in, but the whole point is for people to come in and feel like they’re back east.”
Freshies Lobster Co.
1897 Prospector Ave.
In May, the long-time owners, Joy and Geir Vik, announced their retirement and passed on the business to the Brian and Dena Merrill, and their son, Dylan, who had been their friends and colleagues for years.
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