Back to basics at iconic Cundy's Harbor business

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HARPSWELL — In the weeks leading up to the Memorial Day weekend opening, Peg Robinson, the longtime cashier at Holbrooks Lobster Wharf & Grille, has been getting calls on her cell phone from across the country.

“California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,” Robinson said Monday, scrolling through her phone while sitting by the window of the Holbrooks General Store, which sits adjacent to the restaurant. 

The customers were calling “just to see when we’re going to open so they can plan their vacation,” she said.

This summer, Robinson will take over management of Holbrooks, the iconic shorefront seafood shack at 984 Cundys Harbor Road.

The restaurant will open Friday, May 26, for lunch and dinner.

Under her new leadership, Robinson said she plans to deepen the restaurant’s and the neighboring store’s connection to the Cundys Harbor community.

“Our goal,” Robinson said, referring to herself and Cindy Moody, who will assume management of the store, “is to make it more homey, more inviting.”

While Holbrooks has been a longtime institution on the Cundys Harbor waterfront, Robinson hopes to enhance the way it serves local residents and tourists.

“There’s always room to improve. There’s always room to make people feel welcome,” she said – whether that person is a vacationing parent who needs to buy a snack for their hungry child, or a local teenager in need of a summer job.

“I think one of her biggest goals right now is to keep the community in the community,” Moody added.

Robinson’s name is synonymous with the Cundys Harbor community, Moody said, noting the positive reaction people have when she’s mentioned her new boss around town.

“I think that speaks volumes about her personality and the Wharf and Grille,” Moody said. “I think Peg is really working on the roots of this organization.”

Robinson, according to Moody, has worked hard to emphasize employment of local residents at the restaurant.

The women are making changes to “brighten up the store,” such as adding a kid’s corner, jigsaw puzzles, and a section of locally made crafts. On Monday, Moody pointed out bare shelves that would soon be home to candies, groceries, books and games as she wiped down counters at the store.

The restaurant’s menu will stay the same, Robinson assured. Fried clams, lobster quesadillas, blueberry pie – these are what people long for when they call Robinson on the phone from places all over the country.

“‘I can’t wait to get some of that Maine seafood,'” she quoted, remembering a woman with a thick accent who’d phoned earlier that week.

All of the seafood is sourced from Maine, and all the lobster from Cundys Harbor. Some of it comes straight from the wharf beside the restaurant, and Robinson said the tight-knit summer staff will go on “squid runs” on their off hours; chef Pete Clark will fry up the delicacies for customers the next day.

Robinson stood in the kitchen between the grill and a prep station, recounting the fast-paced, but ultimately simple process of serving meals to 700 guests a day at the height of the summer.

But on Monday, the fryers were empty. There was a lot left to do before Friday’s opening, Robinson said, and rattled off the list: washing utensils, ordering the food, prepping salads and chowders.

“There’ll be a lot of trucks, and a lot of counting,” Robinson laughed, and instructed Moody to post a sign on the restaurant with the date of the May 26 opening.

Except for the larger grill equipment, Robinson can fill in on any part of the line; as manager, she said she wants to lead by example.

That includes the cash register window, the perch from which she’s watched local kids grow “from not being able to see over the counter to being teenagers.”

“I love the cash register. I love the people,” she said. “They’re the reason I got hooked on this place.”

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

Longtime cashier Peg Robinson has taken over management of Holbrooks Lobster Wharf & Grille, which will open for the season May 26. “Peg makes everyone she comes into contact with feel welcome and important,” one of her coworkers said.

Peg Robinson, the new manager at Holbrooks Lobster Wharf & Grille in Cundy’s Harbor, has worked at the Harpswell restaurant for six years. It opens for the season Memorial Day weekend.

Holbrooks General Store in Cundy’s Harbor has always sold snacks and staples, but this year it will offer a kid’s corner, library books, and local crafts to make the store an inviting place for local residents and tourists alike.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.