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Maine Businesses Support Maine Lobstermen Through MLCA

The Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance’s (MLCA) mission is to foster thriving coastal communities and preserve Maine’s lobstering heritage. Its programs serve to educate the public about the state’s lobstering history, support scientific research to further the industry’s conservation ethic and stewardship of ocean resources, and to provide charity to distressed fishing families. For several Maine companies who are contributing a portion of their profits to the MLCA, the MLCA is a way to establish a closer, tangible connection to Maine lobstermen, their families and communities.

Citizen Maine

Citizen Maine's Home Store in Damariscotta

Citizen Maine is an adult and children’s clothing, interior design and home furnishings company based in Damariscotta. Founded by Danny Cain in 2016, the company donates a portion of the sales of its Lobstermen’s Collection to the MLCA’s Lobstermen’s Relief Fund each season. The Lobstermen’s Relief Fund is a program designed to help lobstermen’s families who are going through a crisis or a difficult time. This program has helped over a dozen families since 2016. Cain had been living and working in Washington D.C. since 2005 and spent time in Maine each year. “We intended to retire here but then in our early 50’s decided ‘why not now?’ We relocated permanently three years ago,” he said. Citizen Maine now has one store in Damariscotta and a second, featuring bed and bath items, opening in town later this year. The company’s Lobstermen’s Collection features colorful lobster graphics on everything from children’s clothes to aprons and beach totes. “Our company values are giving back to the local community. We liked the idea of contributing to something that gives directly to those in need,” he said.

Industrial ME

The husband-and-wife team behind Industrial ME also felt a strong desire to contribute to the MLCA. “We wanted to partner with an entity that is helping sustain the lobster culture in the state,” explained co-founder Deirdre Smith. “The MLCA’s mission aligns with what we think should happen in Maine. It takes a reasonable approach to helping communities on the ground.” Deirdre and her husband Brad, who go by the name Mr. and Mrs. Claws, created the company in 2019. Brad, a welder, and Deirdre, who worked in technology management for decades, wanted to go on a new career path, one that they could travel together. They hold a recreational lobster license and one day after hauling, created a metal sculpture of a lobster. That sculpture led to other lobster-related items made of metal, primarily with a lobster claw shape, which drew praise from friends and others. “So we started online in 2019 and found some wholesale accounts,” Smith said. “All of our products we make ourselves. I draw the design and he cuts it.” Industrial ME offers everything from metal jewelry, trivets and platters to lobster claw T-shirts, baby items, and mugs in eye-catching colors. In May they opened “the shed” on the town dock off Route 1 in Wiscasset. “It’s a good opportunity to test our products directly with the public. And we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response,” Smith said. In addition to Industrial Maine items, the shed features a table of MLCA materials to help inform shoppers about the Maine lobster fishery and the complex problems it currently faces. “I talk to everybody about you guys!” Smith said.

Industrial ME items in their Wiscasset store on the pier.

Cobalt Sky Studio

Cobalt Sky Studio's buoy pillows can be customized to a lobsterman's colors.

Cobalt Sky Studios, operated by Marley Wilkinson, makes a regular donation to the MLCA as well. Wilkinson makes brightly colored lobster buoy pillows which she sells through her online store on Etsy. She began the business in 2009, inspired by the buoys she saw off Pemaquid Harbor. Her buoy pillows can be custom-made to a lobsterman’s own colors or simply emblazoned with lobsters, crabs, anchors and other figures. “I value the rich history of Maine’s multi-generational fishing communities,” Wilkinson said. “I draw on that for my business and I’m so happy to be able to contribute to the lobster fishery’s sustainability in return.”

Rugged Seas

Rugged Seas, based in Portland, recycles old fishing bibs into backpacks, clutches and totes. The company also produces a line of sweatshirts, T-shirts and other apparel that highlight Gulf of Maine fisheries. Started by Taylor Strout and his wife Nikki in 2020, Rugged Sea donates a portion of its profits to the MLCA and to the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. Strout grew up on the Portland waterfront. His father, Frank Strout, was a board member of the MLA. “I fished with my dad out of Portland and then got my student license. I had a 17-foot Whaler and hauled by hand,” Strout said. Later he headed west for college in Colorado. After graduation he began fishing in Alaska. “But every time I got back home, I saw that fishermen had to go to more meetings, that there were real struggles for the fishing industry. I wondered what could we do?” Underlying that question was a larger one: how to connect people to Maine’s working waterfront and fishermen? The couple brainstormed for several years before settling on recycling fishermen’s bibs. “Bibs are used in every single fishery, no matter what you are doing, selling bait, whatever. We thought, let’s find a new purpose for them,” Strout said. He washed a few discarded bibs at home and found that they cleaned up fairly well. Now the company sends donated bibs to Maine dry cleaning company Pratt Abbott for a thorough wash, where they are also pressed and folded. Obtaining the bibs has been a collaborative effort. All six Hamilton Marine stores in the state and Vessel Services Inc. in Portland have drop-off barrels. Fishermen are also invited to mail their old bibs into the company, postage paid. <click=">click" here="here" for="for" more="more" info="info" on="on" bib="bib" recycling="recycling"> Using the old to make something new is just part of the company’s mission. Taylor and his wife are committed to supporting Maine’s fishing heritage through linking people to fishing communities. And contributing to the MLCA is one way to do that. “It comes down to having a voice,” Strout said. “We’re all individual fishermen and we need a strong unified voice. I have to hope that we can sustain as we go forward. It’s a sustainable fishery and it gave me everything I had as a child.”

Rugged Seas founders, Nikki and Taylor Strout, on the Portland waterfront. C McCracken photo


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