If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to eat shellfish at Cook’s Lobster House, better get cracking.

The iconic Maine seafood restaurant in Harpswell closes for the season Sunday, and while the restaurant promises to open again in spring for its 60th year, the business is being sold.

The restaurant and real estate are on the market for $1.79 million, according to the website of Malone Commercial Brokers in Portland. The sale includes a 5,320-square-foot, single-story wood frame building on 1.37 acres, the listing says. The restaurant seats 190 people and includes a large commercial kitchen, two dining rooms, a bar and lounge, a gift shop and outside deck that seats an additional 50. The decor is decidedly Maine-centric: knotty pine, lobster traps and lots of nautical memorabilia.

And then there are those views. Generations of Mainers have journeyed down the peninsula and over the historic Cribstone Bridge to feast on lobster while enjoying views of Merriconeag Sound and Garrison Cove, and of lobstermen bringing in their daily catch.

For at least the past three years, the restaurant’s fans have included Jackie and Terry Tiner of Belgrade, who make an annual pilgrimage to Cook’s to celebrate their wedding anniversary. They always order the Point Shore Dinner, which includes a lobster, steamers, corn on the cob and potato. If anything changes, Jackie Tiner said, they would miss it.

“It’s my favorite place to go,” she said. “You’re right there on the ocean, and I love the ambience.”

Cook’s Lobster House has had only two owners since 1955. The current owner, Curt Parent, started working there as a dishwasher when he was in high school in the late 1970s. After graduation, he became a full-time employee and nine years later purchased the restaurant. Parent did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the sale.

Managing a long-running restaurant like Cook’s can be a challenge, the culinary equivalent of running a marathon, said Greg Dugal, president of the Maine Restaurant Association, which gave Parent a lifetime achievement award in 2012. It’s exhausting, and there are a lot of expectations from generations of devoted fans that management won’t drop the ball

“With iconic properties like that, all you can be is the steward of that property while you own it and try to make it better and more appealing for the next owner, the next generation of visitors,” Dugal said. “I think, really, that is what Curt has done with the property. When we recognized him in 2012, we were certainly recognizing him, but we were also recognizing the iconic nature of the restaurant itself.”

In 1997, Cook’s was one of only seven businesses in the nation to be featured in a commercial for Visa, which attracted even more visitors to its out-of-the-way location.

Cook’s employs about 100 people during a typical year. It’s known for sponsoring fishing tournaments and an annual July Fourth fireworks display, and as a venue for weddings and lobster bakes. Nature cruises and charter boats sail right from its dock, and every day Casco Bay Lines stops there to drop off passengers to eat lunch at the restaurant or picnic. The restaurant’s wharf operation, which includes 850 feet of dockage and utility sheds, is not part of the deal. According to the property summary on the broker’s website, if the wharf is ever sold, Casco Bay Lines will retain the right of way to continue to provide ferry service. The Realtor declined to comment.

If Cook’s sells, will it continue to be a restaurant?

“That’s what it’s designed to be, obviously,” Dugal said. “In that area there are some lodgings already, so there’s a need for places for people to go. I kind of struggle with what else it could be.”

Dugal, who grew up in Brunswick, has his own fond memories of eating at Cook’s with his family.

“My mother had limited mobility and it was a place she could get into,” he recalled. “We were able to go down there and spend the afternoon looking out over the water and have a good old-fashioned lobster feed.”

Despite the hard work involved in running a seasonal restaurant on Maine’s coast, Dugal said places like Cook’s appear to be flourishing up and down the coast, thanks to tourists’ taste for lobster. Many of them are still owned by the families who founded them.

“These places are still out there, and still doing well,” he said.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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