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Park City – Ben and Lorin Smaha are used to seeing people’s jaws drops as they walk past their business. It’s not the couple or the food trailer they operate out of during Park Silly’s Sunday Market—it’s the fact that they’re selling fresh lobster.
“It’s a mixed bag of people who walk by and kind of snicker and other people whose jaws drop and they start sharing the story of the first time they had lobster,” said Ben, who started the business, Freshies Lobster Co., about 10 years ago.
The Smahas started the business as a way to bring one of their favorite foods from home to the residents of Utah. Lorin hails from New Hampshire and Ben comes from Maine—one of the country’s most popular spots for fresh lobster.
“Lobstering in general is a part of my life,” Ben said. “When I was 17 I traded in my kayak for lobster traps. I grew up basically on a fisherman’s wharf. It was around me daily growing up in Maine. When I moved to Utah I started bringing live lobsters out here and it’s morphed into selling traditional Maine lobster rolls in Park City.”
Ben visited Utah frequently before he moved to Park City. He skied in Utah often and fell in love with Park City and the state’s accessibility to recreational opportunities. After moving to Park City, he decided he wanted to “bring a taste of Maine out West.”
“It’s a cool, niche market that’s not being tapped into out here,” he said. “[Lobster] was a good idea because no one was doing it, and people travel from all over the world to go to Maine to stop at every lobster shack and eat their way through Maine.”
Ben said the business grows a little each year, primarily due to word of mouth and an influx of people in the Park City area who are from the East Coast.
“Park City just has a lot of people who have come from the East Coast,” Lorin said. “We did a farmer’s market in Salt Lake and it was totally different because people native to Utah weren’t quite sure what our product was, but in Park City it’s been successful because of the amount of people who have come from New England or the New York area. They love lobster rolls.”
Freshies’ slogan is “Shore to door in 24,” and for good reason. Lobsters are caught in Maine, put on an airplane and shipped to Utah weekly. The Smahas pick up their lobster every Saturday so they’re ready for the Park Silly Sunday Market with fresh lobster. They also ship in their rolls from New England, Lorin said, which makes the lobster rolls that much more authentic.
“New England rolls are different compared to a roll you’ll see in Utah,” she said. “This is just a much better roll.”
Lorin, who attended the The Culinary Institute, is the mastermind behind the Smaha’s lobster roll and other lobster creations sold from their truck.
“Once people try our lobster rolls, they can taste the difference between frozen and fresh,” Lorin said. “Lobster is the main event in our product. We butter and toast our rolls on the griddle, add a little mayo and stuff the roll with lobster meat. It’s pretty simple, but it really lets the lobster stand out instead of adding a lot of mayo and celery and other junk.”
Besides serving lobster dishes from their food trailer, the Smahas also cater company and residential parties. Typically they’re asked to serve seafood, like steamed clams, crab claws and shrimp cocktail, but Lorin said they’re equipped to create a variety of different meals.
Ben said a “foodie revolution” in Utah is occurring, which has been great for business as well as the state.
“We see more and more pop up food trucks and people bringing different cuisines from their heritage,” he said. “People just want to try different things. It’s great for Utah and to be able to give back to the Maine fisheries, which is important to me because I know it’s the livelihood back there.”
Ben said at this point there are no plans to expand the business—the couple has a toddler and a baby on the way—but they hope in the future they’ll have that opportunity.
“We’re looking to grow and get our product to more of Utah and we’re headed in that direction, but just not as fast as we wish we could be,” Lorin said. “Every year we evolve, improve and grow. Hopefully in the next few years that’ll be a steeper slope of growth for us.”
Freshies Lobster Co. can be found at the Park Silly Sunday Market every Sunday through Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Park City’s Main Street. For more information, visit www.freshieslobsterco.com.