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Young Westport Island cooperative finding its way in the world

The Coop’s lobster business, like most in the state, is seasonal, starting in May and finishing in December. But the Coop has found ways to generate year-round income. “The travel lift allows to us to store boats,” Faulkingham explained. “We have regular customers each year. We will haul their boats out in fall. The owners repair them in the winter and paint the bottoms. Then we re-launch those boats in the spring.” The service allows the boat owners to do their own maintenance during the colder months, when they’re not using their boats. Overall, the Coop stores between 12 to 15 boats each winter. Like many other businesses, the Coop went through a tough time three years ago when the national recession was at its worst. “It was scary. The price of lobsters crashed but our costs kept increasing,” Faulkingham said. “We were all fishing, but no one was making anything. We stuck it out and we made it through.” The following year wasn’t much better, but by 2010 prices had improved. The North End Lobster Coop enters its ninth season this year. It has grown from 13 to 21 active members. Each potential member must be a licensed commercial lobsterman. To become a Coop member, he or she must be approved by the existing membership and pay a $200 fee. The Coop also sells lobsters on a retail basis during the summer. The same customers come to the dock regularly, both locals and people visiting for the summer. “For the people coming to buy lobsters down here, it’s a real thrill,” said Faulkingham. “Like any other dock, people love to buy the lobster fresh, right off the boat. Our retail business has grown every year.” Each year in the autumn, the Coop throws a lobster bake for the members and their families and friends to show appreciation for all they do. “Everyone helps out to make the Coop work,” Faulkingham said. “It wouldn’t exist if everyone didn’t fish and pool their lobsters here.” Having a busy coop in the neighborhood hasn’t provoked negative reactions from homeowners in the area. Faulkingham said the Coop enjoys a good relationship with its neighbors, Benjamin and Sandra Crehore. “They are wonderful, nice people, very supportive of everything we do, and we do everything we can to help them,” he explained. “They’ve told me they enjoy hearing the boats come and go and seeing everyone. Ben keeps his boat on our dock.” When the Coop members took a chance and purchased the property eight years ago, their common goal was to ensure it be used for fishing forever. Thus far, they have made that vision a prosperous reality. “This is a nice piece of land and a nice spot,” Faulkingham said. “We have no intentions of letting anything happen to it.”

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