2015-10-16 / Community News

Lobster truck business continues to roll

Cousins Maine Lobster has grown to 18 locations across the country
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Sabin Lomac, left, and Jim Tselikis, owners of Cousins Maine Lobster, pose with their first customers after launching their food truck in Los Angles in 2012. Lomac and Tselikis both grew up in Maine and recently invited their franchisees to Portland for an inside look at the lobster industry. (Courtesy file photo) Sabin Lomac, left, and Jim Tselikis, owners of Cousins Maine Lobster, pose with their first customers after launching their food truck in Los Angles in 2012. Lomac and Tselikis both grew up in Maine and recently invited their franchisees to Portland for an inside look at the lobster industry. (Courtesy file photo) When Sabin Lomac was growing up, lobster bakes were a great way for his family to come together.

Now, years later, the 1999 Scarborough High School graduate is making a living off the Maine crustacean through Cousins Maine Lobster, a Los Angles-based food truck business he started with his cousin Jim Tselikis in spring 2012.

Lomac and Tselikis, a Cape Elizabeth native, started the business after seeing a lack of authentic Maine lobster on the West Coast.

In an effort to provide the best quality possible, Cousins Maine Lobster sends directly from local Gulf of Maine lobstermen. In true New England style, Cousins Maine Lobster also serves whoopie pies, Cape Cod chips, New England clam chowder, red hot dogs, Moxie and other Maine soda, as well as several lobster-based menu items, including the California-inspired lobster taco.

“We want to educate people. It goes beyond just the products we serve,” Tselikis told the Leader in May 2012, shortly after opening. “We are creating a Maine experience out here.”

The company started out of a lone food truck and has grown to 18 food trucks across the country, an online business and a brick and mortar restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard West Hollywood, California, thanks to the continued entrepreneurial spirit of Lomac and Tselikis and national television exposure, including an October 2012 appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and spots on “The Chew,” “The Katie Couric Show,” “The Queen Latifah Show,” “Masterchef,” “Good Morning America,” “The Today Show,” QVC and The Food Network.

Lomac and Tselikis appeared on “Shark Tank” – a show in which entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to wealthy investors – two months after opening and impressed New York City real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran enough that she invested $55,000 in exchange for 15 percent of the business.

“They don’t need to go on national television. Make sure if you have an idea, you do it. Ninety-nine percent of the people I meet say they have an idea, but don’t ever do anything about it,” Lomac said of his advice for young entrepreneurs.

The company has only grown from there and created a niche in the booming food truck scene in Los Angles. The company has been named the fan favorite at the Tasting Table’s Lobster Rumble Los Angeles for three straight years.

“It’s been a great response. Everyone is in love with the food. If they are East Coast people, they recognize it from growing up. If they are people who have never had a lobster roll, they are just as enthralled,” Lomac said.

Last year Cousins Maine Lobster expanded from the Los Angeles to across the country when it started offering franchisees an opportunity to bring the business to their hometown.

The response was overwhelming.

Lomac said there were 2,600 applicants, which were eventually whittled down to just 11.

According to the Cousins Maine Lobster website, the initial cost to open a franchise ranges between $210,00 and $342,900.

Today, Cousins Maine Lobster franchises operate in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Napa Valley, Sacramento and San Diego; Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix and Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Franchisees are great, but we wanted to make sure we had the right people,” Lomac said.

The franchisees were brought together last week for a corporate retreat at The Residence Inn on Fore Street in Portland.

Lomac said the retreat, a first for Cousins Maine Lobster, was aimed at giving the franchisees “a greater appreciation for Maine lobster.”

To that end, they spent time out on a lobster boat, toured the company’s processing facility, enjoyed a lobster bake at Tselikis’ house and heard from Kat Cole, group president of Focus Brands, who was the retreat’s key note speaker.

“It’s always a great feeling to come home and see old friends and family,” said Lomac, who moved to Los Angeles after graduating from Hofstra University and worked as an actor and real estate agent prior to opening Cousins Maine Lobster. “To have our people there with us and seeing where our food comes from, it was a remarkable experience.”

Lomac said Cousins Maine Lobster is open to expanding franchises in other parts of the country and seeing how the business evolves.

“We are going to continue to grow. We are going to grow at the same pace, which is a cautious approach. We want to continue to make sure the quality we offer is perfect and flawless. That is most important,” Lomac said.

Lomac said the success of his business in Los Angeles and across the country would not be possible without help of the lobstermen and local employees in Maine who work hard to meet the demand.

“We appreciate the hard work and the quality they put out is phenomenal. We love being able to represent the state of Maine and for me, Scarborough,” Lomac said.

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