A taste of Maine

A taste of Maine

Along the road connecting Fredericktown and Amity in Knox County is a red wooden sign with a lobster on it, marking a driveway leading to 22 acres of wooded property featuring a creek, walking trails, two cabins and a 1961 Shasta Airflyte camper trailer for rent, a house, a small private writing hut, and, if the season is right, 700 pounds of live lobsters.

Brett Fletcher built the Lobstah Shack in 2008 using free lumber provided by a neighbor and has been selling Maine lobsters out of the 96-square-foot shack in Amity, Ohio (population 50), ever since. A 460-gallon lobster tank fills up the structure, though there’s enough room inside for Maine memorabilia and a small always-on radio that plays music to deter the squirrels. That tank, along with an additional 1,200-gallon tank in his garage, can hold up to 700 pounds of lobster, which he sells from May through December.

Brett Fletcher has been selling Maine lobsters out of a 96-square-foot shack in Knox County for 14 years.

Brett Fletcher has been selling Maine lobsters out of a 96-square-foot shack in Knox County for 14 years.

The road to Amity

After graduating from Ohio State University, Fletcher talked his dad into co-signing a loan for a lobster boat and moved to an off-the-grid family cabin in Georgetown, Maine. He spent the next 20 years as a professional lobsterer, hauling water to his makeshift shower and 200 traps’ worth of lobsters per day from the waters surrounding the island town.

The 2008 financial crisis hit hard for the lobster industry, especially in Maine. “Lobsters are a party food. They’re historically expensive,” Fletcher says. The market rate for lobsters plummeted along the coast, and he needed an alternate way to make income. 

His plan? To open a lobster shack on his mother’s property in Amity. He would make regular trips to Maine to catch lobsters, bring them back to Ohio, sell them, and do it again. 

“Everyone told me that I was crazy,” says Fletcher, “and because it’s so crazy, a lot of people come here.” Aside from luring those intrigued by the absurdity of purchasing fresh lobsters from a shack in the middle of the woods outside of Mount Vernon, part of his strategy to attract customers is to keep prices the lowest in the area, by at least $4 a pound. “Last summer, places in Columbus would sell for $24.99 per pound. I was half of that,” he says.

Sea change

While the shack has remained the same, many parts of Fletcher’s operation have changed through the years. 

First, he realized the difficulty of maintaining his lobster boat from 850 miles away. “My boat was unattended and broke loose in a storm,” he says, “and I knew I couldn’t be in two places at once. You really have to be there to take care of a boat.” So he now relies on his network of friends back in Maine to supply his lobsters.

For the first four years of the venture, Fletcher drove to Maine three times a month to purchase lobsters. But that turned out to be unsustainable as well. “I lost two transmissions, and I had one trip that was 36 hours,” he says. Fletcher now contracts with a trucking company that comes to Akron every Thursday with fresh lobsters. Fletcher fills his 2006 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with 18 boxes of lobsters and completes their trek to Knox County.

Live like a lobsterer, eat like a lobsterer

In 2018, Fletcher widened the experience at the Lobstah Shack by adding off-the-grid, pretend-you’re-in-Maine-style accommodations on his property through Airbnb. Fletcher rents each of the three structures (two cabins and a trailer) for less than $80 a night.

He started with rehabbing a 1930s moonshiner’s cabin, complete with a trap door in the floor that leads to a pit for hiding moonshine during Prohibition. The cabin emulates Fletcher’s living experience as a trapper in Maine — with a wood stove inside, an outdoor solar shower, an RV toilet, charcoal grill, outdoor fireplace, and candles and lamps for lighting. Instead of views of the Atlantic coast, the cabin showcases the windy and determined Little Schenck Creek.

He also facilitates lobster dinners for guests who purchase lobsters. In some cases, he’ll deliver the cooked lobster. If guests prefer to boil dinner themselves, he provides large pots.

But either way, dinner is sure to be delicious. 

The Lobstah Shack, 18784 Lower Fredericktown Amity Road, Mount Vernon, OH 43050. 207-751-9151 or www.thelobstahshack.com.