The Nor’Easter Pound & Market
“Tied to Northeast through-and-through” – The Nor’Easter looks ahead
Ronnie Musetti and Adam Fraley go way back. “Our first time working together was selling ads for the Mount Desert Elementary School yearbook,” Adam remembers. But their friendship began before they entered kindergarten and their connections to the island run even deeper.
Ronnie can trace his roots back to the quarrying families of Hall Quarry and has been fishing since he was nine years old when he started helping his lobsterman grandfather. He continued fishing through high school and has become a successful inshore/offshore lobsterman based out of Northeast Harbor.
Adam’s great grandfather was a doctor in Philadelphia who first learned of Mount Desert Island when he began traveling up here with his summer resident patients. His love of the island trickled down to Adam’s father, who decided to move here and start a family. Like Ronnie, Adam was drawn to the water and got his first job on the Beal & Bunker Mailboat. Like many “Maine boomerangs,” Adam soon returned home to put down roots in the community he loves after attending high school and college out of state and then working as an engineer in Washington, D.C.
Ronnie and Adam’s blend of backgrounds and experience with both the island’s summer and year-round populations led to what Adam called “the creation of something that can be enjoyed by as many people as possible.” Attached to the Kimball Terrace Inn on Huntington Road overlooking the bustling harbor, The Nor’Easter Pound & Market lives up to its tagline “Whatever floats your boat!” with its extensive menu and themed events all within a combination restaurant and retail space. “We really wanted to celebrate the area by doing something unique. We wanted to create a true destination,” said Adam.
The menu includes both classics like lobster rolls made with Ronnie’s daily catch and named after their surroundings (you can choose a “Mount Desert” roll if you like yours with mayo, a “Sutton” if you prefer butter, or an “Acadian” if you want to mix things up a bit with Cajun seasoning) and twists on favorites like the vegan bratwurst on a pretzel hoagie. You’ll also find playful uses of the Maine vernacular peppered throughout the menu, such as the Hard Tellin’ Not Knowin’, a mystery cocktail that will leave the drinker’s fate in the hands of the bartender. “We’re trying to be adaptable, which is something we have going for us as a young business,” said Adam.
2021 was a very successful second season for The Nor’Easter. “We didn’t have to pay for any advertising because we were so busy with walk-ins,” Adam said about a summer and early fall that sometimes saw hour-long waits, even for lunch. When asked how diners found them, he guessed “about 20% stumbled upon Northeast Harbor while driving around the island, 20% came specifically to Northeast as a destination, and 20% were yachters and boaters who came up the hill themselves or sent their crew to our market to buy seafood.” The rest were a mix of locals, summer residents, and guests of the 70-room Kimball Terrace Inn.
Staying open year-round is essential to The Nor’Easter’s business plan. “We have endless ideas,” said Adam as he described a winter season full of holiday parties, live music (currently just on Friday nights but they might expand this), prime rib dinners, trivia nights, Margarita Mondays, and other specials or events. They’re even partnering with a new delivery service called J Sanchez Deliveries to feed hungry customers across the island and as far away as Ellsworth or Bangor.
Despite their wealth of ideas, winter still poses challenges for The Nor’Easter. Like most local restaurants they have to watch their utility bills, balance their food supply against slower demand, and keep staff employed long-term. “Our employee base for the winter is good, but housing is a big issue for our staff,” said Adam. He mentioned one member of their kitchen staff who was commuting over an hour to work this summer until he took a job that paid the same and was only 20 minutes from his home. “I hated to lose him but I couldn’t blame him at all,” said Adam.
No matter the season, environmental sustainability is a top priority for The Nor’Easter. From cutting down on kitchen waste to the types of product lines they choose, “we made it a priority from the very beginning,” said Adam. “We don’t even serve imported shrimp, although we get lots of requests for it.” Even switching from pre-planned soup offerings to a “soup of the day” forces the kitchen crew to use what they have on hand to make something delicious. “It allows for more variety and creativity, which is fun for both our staff and guests,” said Adam.
Looking to the future, Adam and Ronnie have plans to build a rooftop garden as a way to cut into their distribution impact with produce. It’s a flat, dark roof, which means it would absorb the sunbeams all summer long when it’s needed most. “The highest customer volume of the season will be right when we’re harvesting,” said Adam.
No matter where the future takes them, “we’re tied to Northeast Harbor through-and-through,” said Adam. “It’s exciting to see things in town move around us and to meet all of the new people who come with those changes,” he said as he referenced construction projects like the COA Center on Main Street and the surge of fishermen who have been moving their vessels from other harbors to Northeast. “Our goal has always been to do something right and hopefully grow from there. We want to be a long-term part of this community.