SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Beal’s Lobster Pier is celebrating its 90th anniversary this summer. Located at 182 Clark Point Road in Southwest Harbor, this landmark eatery has been a staple for generations of families who came to consume its fresh lobster, award-winning rolls and seafood.
“Grandparents, with their kids and their grandkids, show up. We’ve had wedding receptions here and rehearsal dinners for kids who grow up here,” said Stuart Snyder, owner of the restaurant. “We want to keep that tradition going. We want to keep those memories going for families.”
Snyder and his team plan on providing guests of Beal’s with an experience worthy of a 90th birthday bash all year long. The Cranberry Cove ferry will be docking at the pier this season and interested travelers can sign up for a tour that covers the history of Beal’s Lobster Pier and the surrounding island.
Although some announcements are still under wraps, any special event will be posted on Beal’s Facebook page. Snyder said some live music events, food specials and reduced-pricing weekends are in the works, so those curious should check back regularly.
The waterfront destination was founded in 1932, when Harvard Beal opened the operation as a year-round, working fish and lobster pier and wholesale market. In 1969, the Beal family expanded the wharf to include a dockside restaurant where lobsters would go straight from the pier to the plates of hungry customers.
Three generations built on the legacy until 2011 when Sam Beal, Harvard’s grandson, passed away before he could find a buyer to carry on the business. When it went up for sale in 2014, Snyder and business partner Russ Bernard, who had been coming to Maine and to Beal’s for more than 40 years, jumped at the opportunity to purchase the business.
“When we bought Beal’s, there was a natural apprehension about what our intent was,” Snyder said. “But we view ourselves as stewards of the brand. We wanted to honor what Beal’s has always been prior to us buying it.”
Under Snyder’s management, there have been some updates, like an expanded menu and seating. These adjustments have focused on enhancing the customer experience rather than rewriting the Beal’s family blueprint.
“It seems that people like the changes or the lack of changes,” said Snyder, who’s constantly checking online reviews and getting feedback from in-person patrons. “I have people coming back who have been coming here for years, like me, who say, ‘besides the tweaks, it feels the same.’”
Perhaps Snyder’s most ambitious upgrade to Beal’s has been increasing its direct-to-consumer market. Before he purchased the business, the previous owners had started overnight shipping of lobsters and food products across the country, but with little advertising and no website to promote it, the ecommerce side of the business had yet to take off.
When Snyder’s team took over, the focus turned to advertising the delivery services that ship live lobsters and lobster roll kits overnight to anywhere in the U.S. During the last two years, these online sales sustained profit margins when the restaurant could not serve visitors due to COVID-19. Now, Snyder says that this revenue stream makes up the majority of his sales.
“Marketing only gets people to your door. You have to deliver every day,” Snyder said.
As for the future of Beal’s, Snyder said he hopes to celebrate 100 years and beyond. For the next decade, he plans on launching more direct-to-consumer products and possibly opening multiple locations across the island and state lines.
“You have to adapt to what the next generation is interested in and wants,” Snyder said. “So that’s what we’ve done while keeping the core of what someone who’s been coming here 30-40 years is after.”