We've all heard about fishermen's co-ops but how do they actually come together, and how do they work? The story of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Co-op, like many good things that come to fruition, is a story of false starts, perseverance and doughnuts! Last winter, the Miller family, fishermen in the community interested in seeing a Co-op in Tenants Harbor, with longtime summer resident Merritt Carey, who had worked for the Millers as a girl, began a conversation with Luke Holden, owner of Cape Seafood and Luke's Lobster.
From those conversations, most of which were fueled by Frosty's doughnuts, and took place around kitchen tables, and in the unheated Cod End building, an idea took hold. Why not create a vertically integrated partnership - giving fishermen a processor and restaurant partner, and a processor and restaurant group a traceable supply and real partnership with fishermen? Like anything, the devil is always in the details and forming this Co-op was no different - how would the buying work, how would the price be determined, how would the fishermen get paid, and how could we continue to build trust? Communication and transparency were key ingredients to success. We did a lot of communicating over the winter - and a lot of doughnut eating as well. Luke continued to show up at every meeting - getting to know all of us, answering questions, and sometimes even bringing doughnuts (which was when we knew we had a real partner!).
From the get go, we wanted to do things a little differently - we are one of the few Co-ops to have non fishermen sit on our board - both Luke Holden and Merritt Carey, an attorney turned communications consultant, are board members - bringing a different perspective to our discussions. Our Co-op is in its infancy and there are certainly many more challenges ahead. Our goals - to return value to our fishermen; change the business model for the better and deliver traceable, high quality lobsters to Cape Seafood and Luke's Lobster- will, we think, guide us as we grow.