Family values keep customers through the generations
A fixture on Buzzards Bay’s Cranberry Highway for the past 42 years, the Lobster Pot restaurant’s fresh seafood, friendly atmosphere, exceptional wine selection, and customer-oriented service keeps loyal fans returning season after season. Lobster Pot owner Guy Marino and son Mike serve up tens of thousands of seafood dinners at the popular restaurant each year.
By Patricia Abbate
Buzzards Bay– It’s a family affair for Guy Marino, owner of the popular and award-winning Lobster Pot restaurant located on Cranberry Highway in Buzzards Bay. The grandson of Italian fisherman on his mother’s side and Italian produce merchants and wine makers on his father’s side, Marino’s comfort and success as a restaurateur seem to come naturally. And with the retirement of his long-time business partner, co-owner and brother Joe two years ago, Marino’s sons Mike and Joe have become even more important as the business moves into its 43rd year of year-round operation.
Known for its consistently high-quality, fresh seafood, the Lobster Pot has been the recipient of numerous awards including being voted New England’s best chowder by New England Cable News, New England’s best lobster roll by Fox 25 Boston, and New England’s best lobster and seafood by the Phantom Gourmet.
According to Marino, the secret to success can be summed up in two words, consistency and customers. “It’s all about the customers,” he says, “you do what’s right. It’s really that simple. And consistency is key. I always tell my boys, if you are consistent, customers know what to expect and they keep coming back.”
In the early days, the Marino brothers enlisted in the US armed forces as cooks – the Coast Guard for Guy and the National Guard for Joe. It was a natural step for them to open a restaurant together when they returned to civilian life in 1971, as they had great family mentors. Marino recalls, “We grew up in the business. My mother’s father came to this country in 1908 from Sicily. He was in the Italian navy and was a fisherman. When he came here he fished, worked on boats, and lived in Boston’s West End with other recent immigrants. My father’s family came here around 1920.” His paternal grandfather bought a building on Boston’s historic Long Wharf (now the site of the Marriott Long Wharf), where he set up an eatery serving breakfast and lunch to longshoremen pier
workers. The business was eventually taken by eminent domain to pave the way for urban development, but a strong work ethic and a love of food service compelled his father to purchase property in Roxbury Crossing, launching Marino’s, a submarine sandwich shop. “When I was five, I went to work with him every day, went to school up the street, and that’s what I did until I went into the Coast Guard.” Marino says.
The brothers soon located a property in Brockton that fit their wallet and opened Marino’s, a sandwich shop. “We didn’t have any money, so we found a place with cheap rent, in an area where no one wanted to be,” says Marino. Despite the lack of capital, advertising, and an ideal location, the business grew and the brothers eventually bought the building. “Almost every day, every week, business got better. We reached a point where we only had to be open Monday through Friday, 9 to 6, and were closed on weekends. We had it made.”
A few years later, Marino found himself stuck in heavy traffic on a return trip from Cape Cod. “The road was like a parking lot, I’ll never forget it,” he remembers, “and then I saw this place, like a shack, with a sign that said ‘auction coming,’ so I had to talk with my brother about it.”
After a trip to see the building and assess the area, the brothers bought the place at auction. Initially, Marino admits, “it was the worst thing I ever did in my life, I was so sorry we bought it. It needed tons of work and money that we didn’t have, including 14,000 dollars in back taxes. We almost lost it before we got going.”
But after securing five different loans, the brothers opened their doors. “We called it Marino’s the first year or two, until we figured out what would work here.” They changed the name to Lobster Pot, and sold their Brockton business, keeping ownership of the building. And their new business flourished. This was during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the Cranberry Highway was the only road to the Cape, and business boomed for nearly all businesses on that stretch of road – from the numerous basket and souvenir shops to clam shacks, burger joints, and ice cream huts – it was a welcoming and bustling area for commerce.
In 1983 the brothers needed more room to accommodate demand, so they expanded with an addition, and business kept growing. Plans for additional space were again underway, but curtailed when news that the continuation of Rt. 25 would be completed in the summer of 1987, creating a new and faster highway to the Cape. After the new road was opened, the brothers waited to see what would happen. “There were no cars on the road, but we didn’t lose much business,” according to Marino. Happily, their business continued to grow and the addition was constructed, with the new section opening on Memorial Day, 1990.
Since then, business at the Lobster Pot has continued to thrive throughout the years. So what’s the secret to their success? According to Marino, “You’re in business to make money, so you do whatever you have to do. But when you don’t need the money, you don’t cut corners. We got to the point where we felt that we didn’t own this business any more, our customers did. We do what is best for our customers. Always.”
Customers have come to regard the Lobster Pot as their personal place. “They bring their out-of-town guests here to give them a taste of New England,” according to Marino’s son, Mike, “They brag about the Lobster Pot as if it’s their own. They have a personal connection here. The same people come back year after year.” And the extensive and high-end selection of wines is also a customer pleaser. “The last thing you want to give a customer is a lousy bottle of wine. Nobody cares about wine, but I do. I care about everything,” Marino says with emphasis.
During busy weekends, more than 3,000 patrons are served. Customers travel from the local area and all over New England as well as from the rest of the country. “We have an astronomical amount of customers, because they don’t come every day. Lobster and fried clams, you don’t eat every day. My ‘local’ business comes from Sharon, Worcester, Boston, Sudbury, the 495 belt. They come here maybe five or six times a year, it’s a destination for them,” says Marino.
In a location where so many businesses have come and gone, there are still a handful of restaurants that remain, still in the same family, and still “doing it right,” according to Marino. Along with the Lobster Pot, nearby Lindsey’s Family Restaurant, Charlie’s Place, and Mezza Luna continue to thrive under the same family management. Marino says these restaurants make the area unique, as they are not chains that answer to corporate management.
For someone who once regretted his auction purchase of a shack-like building 42 years ago, Marino has no plans to retire, choosing to work with his sons well into the future.
“I like to serve great food, great wine, and give great service, and it works. If you do the best you can do, you can’t do anything wrong,” advises Marino, as son Mike chimes in, “My dad is self-taught, he grew up in the business. School can’t teach you what he knows.”
You can visit the Lobster Pot year round. It is located at 3155 Cranberry Highway, on the Buzzards Bay Wareham line. Visit their website for much more information including menus, wine selections, media coverage, and lots more: www.lobsterpotfresh.com
This month, the Lobster Pot is featuring a VALENTINE’S DAY DINNER FOR TWO.
This special “Recipe for Love” includes a raw bar, entree, chocolate “surprise” dessert, and bottle of fine bubbly at a more than reasonable price.
Who can resist the lure of the Lobster Pot ? ∞
Article reprinted from the February 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News.