Posted by John Marr

Sometimes things just seem to fall into place. At our recent meeting, PP Bowen Depke had it all going when he got to introduce our guest speaker and his long time Cape Elizabeth friend, Luke Holden. Bowen was in remarkable humor as he introduced his friend without getting caught in a trap. Luke, you see, is from a long line of Casco Bay lobster fishers. As if that is not just the finest kind, it turns out that Luke is the fourth generation involved with lobster. His three predecessors, it turns out, all where Rotarians and Luke looks forward to following the tradition in the future. It turns out that Luke’s fish tale is a good old-fashioned Maine-boy-does-good story.

Luke is clearly well rooted in Cape Elizabeth, but has chosen to currently reside in South Portland with his wife and daughter, Poppy. He graduated from Cape Elizabeth High School where he was a hockey stand out. That skill helped him get into Georgetown University where he continued to play and became the Bulldog’s hockey team captain. Obviously, Luke is a gifted individual and upon graduating from Georgetown, he moved to New York City to become an investment banker. For many, this would be the gold ring and the story would have a happy ending. Consequently, one Sunday afternoon, at his Manhattan office anchor, he got a longing for a good lobster roll, so he took to the net – internet, that is! His search, despite being in that reputed food mecca, was in vain and he couldn’t find one that could satisfy a guy who has lived the real deal from Maine.

While his appetite may not have been satisfied, it sparked his entrepreneurial and business appetite. So, with an idea, an appetite, and $15K in savings, he set out to create a solution. He has Maine common sense, but he knew he had to have a partner. He reached out to find a marketing mind and sell them on the notion of Luke’s Lobster Shack. His father matched his $15K investment and they found a 250-square foot space in a consignment mall in the Leesburg locale of NYC and opened up selling only lobster rolls and none of the frills, other than good Maine customer service. When you’re on a shoestring budget and dangling on Big Apple high wire, you can’t take the day off to be part of the grand opening. Therefore, on that first day Luke sat at his desk wondering ow it was going, while his dad was stuck in the shack, and Luke had to wait for a report. Just like an Horatio Alger story, the Maine boy made it big time and sold out of the 250 lobster rolls and had to close early! They knew they had a great plan and soon expanded to a second shack on the Upper East Side of the City and just continued to grow. None of it is fancy, still the paper plates and the lobster-limited menu (lobster mac and cheese for the unrefined kids) along with Maine-like customer service, but they are now up to 40 shacks, with 10 in Japan and one in Singapore. They have a shack in Tenants Harbor but, ironically, Luke has yet to open a place in Portland! Thankfully, that omission will soon end and they will open up a 175-seat restaurant on the Portland Pier.

While it may be enough to sell quality lobster rolls, for Luke it’s more than just him. Holden makes sure that the lobsters come from certified lobster boats and are humanely handled all the way to the plate. It begins with the processing facility located in Saco and follows through to the plate or package. They are selling to Whole Foods, which speaks to the quality. They took about half-million pounds of lobster off of Portland boats last year and expect even more this year. They also get quality "lobstahs" from our friends in Canada. This is one of the most sumptuous good luck stories ever to come from the State of Maine. Get ready to stand in line to get into the soon-to-be-opened restaurants on the Portland Pier. For more info, click HERE.

(L-R:  PP Bowen Depke, Luke Holden and President John Curran.)