Nancy Curtis-Strange, left, and Kathleen Clemons, better known as the Lobster Ladies, hold 15-year-old photos of themselves selling lobsters. After 42 years of selling lobsters together, the sisters-in-law will sell lobsters for the last time on Saturday in the parking lot of Fat Boy in Brunswick. (Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record)

BRUNSWICK — This weekend, Kathleen Clemons and her sister-in-law Nancy Curtis-Strange, better known as the Lobster Ladies, will sell lobsters in the Fat Boy parking lot in Brunswick for the last time, the end of a 42-year tradition.

Their last day in business is Saturday.

For decades, Clemons perched on the tailgate of her truck handling lobsters — caught that morning in Casco Bay by her husband — while Curtis-Strange handled the money.

Clemons started selling her then-boyfriend’s lobsters one summer when she was in college. He asked her to sell his lobsters for him because he’d be able to control the price and earn more money than he would if he sold them at the dock.

“I didn’t come from a fishing family and I had never really held a lobster at that point. He put one in my hand on the boat one day and when it moved I threw it,” said Clemons. “Now I can handle four at a time and all three of my sons are lobstermen.”

Clemons said she sold the freshest lobster possible. Each Saturday, her husband brings in lobsters from the traps, and Clemons is ready to sell them by 10 a.m.

“I don’t keep them out of the water for more than 3 hours,” said Clemons. “If we don’t sell out by 1 p.m., we go home and put them in water.”

On particularly hot days, Curtis-Strange has been known to chase after customers, reminding them to put their lobsters in the air-conditioned car rather than the hot trunk so they don’t spoil, according to Clemons.

The pair agreed they’ll miss the interacts they have with their customers the most, both locals and tourists alike.

“We’ve always laughed more than anything,” said Clemons. “Our customers are fun and they worry about us just as much as we worry about them.”

The pair juggled raising children and full-time jobs to continue selling lobsters every summer, but for them, working together was a time to reconnect.

“It’s a lot of fun because we get to visit. Things get busy and we don’t get to see each other much,” said Curtis-Strange.

While Clemons doesn’t know how many lobsters she has sold over the years, she recently found price sheets from decades ago when she priced lobster at $2 per pound. Today, market prices range from $6 to more than $10 per pound, depending on the size of lobster and where it’s sold.

Poring over dozens of old photos and yellowing newspaper clippings, the women recounted selling lobsters through injuries, bad weather and regrettable haircuts and perms, they said.

“We’ve sold in snow, thunderstorms, and hail,” said Clemons. “Only one day in all those years we couldn’t sell because there was a hurricane and we couldn’t pull the boat in to get the lobsters, otherwise we still would’ve sold.”

“We’re not fair-weather farmers,” added Curtis-Strange.

They once sold lobsters from the Fourth of July to Thanksgiving but never enjoyed selling once the weather turned colder.

“I realized one day I’m the boss. I don’t have to be out in the cold if I don’t want to be,” said Clemons.

She decided to stop selling at the end of October, which then moved to the end of September. They’re ceasing operations at the end of August this year because Clemons is going to Oregon in September to photograph dahlias in bloom, a passion of hers. 

While they agreed Saturday will be bittersweet, they’re looking forward to focusing their time and energy on other projects. Both women are artistically inclined; Curtis-Strange paints and Clemons enjoys photographing flowers. She has taught flower photography online for the past 13 years and holds photography workshops across the country. Next year she will teach a photography workshop in Tuscany.

“[Selling lobsters] isn’t all we have in our lives,” said Clemons. “I feel sad, happy, and a little relieved, but it’s time.” 

Clemons said she wouldn’t mind if someone picked up the Lobster Ladies title and followed in their footsteps.

“(The name) isn’t copyrighted, they just need to have as much fun as we’ve had.”

[email protected]mesrecord.com

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: