Brothers. Fishermen. Flannel aficionados. We catch up with Luke and Bryan Holden of Luke’s Lobster at their home in Maine.
“It’s one of those machines you order off an infomercial – but it kicks ass.”
Something about the way Luke and Bryan Holden’s home sits agreeably along a stretch of road in Biddeford, Maine leads you to believe it’s been there forever. (Since it was built around 1737, it basically has.) When we arrive, the old house is buzzing. Four or five laptops are set up on a large, dining room table and, although Luke or Brian has yet to appear, young people swarm about – this is the Luke’s Lobster team.
Luke and Bryan grew up in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, so they’d devoured their fair share of lobster rolls. But it wasn’t until Luke moved to New York, after college, that he saw an opportunity to turn the tastes of his home state into a company that recently landed him on Forbes “30 Under 30” list for successful entrepreneurs. Luke opened Luke’s Lobster in 2009 in New York’s East Village and has since expanded to 12 locations along the east coast. He’s also opened a seafood company, Cape Seafood in Saco, which supplies the fresh, local, sustainable catch to his restaurants. Bryan joined his brother Luke in the business upon graduating from Bowdoin College.
The first Holden we meet is Luke. He ducks under one of the shrunken doorframes, smiles and shakes our hands. He makes his way into the kitchen, offering not-yet-made smoothies to everyone he passes. Into the Ninja Professional (“It’s one of those machines you order off an infomercial – but it kicks ass”) goes a heap of bananas, apples, strawberries, orange juice, vanilla yogurt and ice. Bryan then walks in and greets us politely. He has long hair and an easy grin. The Holden brothers typically start their day with a drive to the gym, then its back to the dining room to answer emails and chat with the squad.
Luke drinks his smoothie as he makes his way upstairs. He brushes his teeth, takes a swig of Scope and swishes it around. He walks to the closet. “What’ll it be? Flannel or flannel?” Bryan, meanwhile, climbs to his lofted bedroom and also selects a shirt for the day. Next up on a typical Maine morning is fishing, so they grab their fly rods and we walk through the backyard, down a steep slope laced with pine trees and end up on their dock. The guys drop their lines in the water and start casting. “Bryan’s rod is significantly larger than mine,” Luke cracks. Since no lobster is coming in this time of year, things move a bit slower.
After fishing, Luke and Bryan walk back to the house, where they set up in the barn. Bryan is a talented woodworker, fashioning many of the pieces for their restaurants from salvaged materials. He explains: “when we’re down in New York or DC [the brothers spend about a third of their time in each], there isn’t much to do after you leave work. But here, you can mess around in the woodshop until it’s time to go to sleep.”
“Bryan’s rod is significantly larger than mine.”
We’re in the car now heading to the Cape Seafood facility in Saco where, during high season, 30,000 lobsters are cleaned and cooked per day. Luke is explaining his schedule. “We’re usually at the plant at 5:00am during the summer – the days can be brutally long.” The brothers are sometimes in Maine for a few days, and then right back in New York the next. Luke logged 30 flights and 40,000 miles in the car last year. After a tour of the clinically clean factory, its time to move on. Bryan jumps in his pickup to drive south. We tell him bye. We ask Luke if he needs a ride. His look says it all. “Nah man, I have to clock in here.”