You know you are making something worthwhile when none of your customers want you to change it. Such is the case for Superior Marine Products in Gray. The company makes lobster blocks. “Lobstermen seem to love them,” said Kristin Stanley, co-owner of the company with her husband Phil. “I think it’s a product that would be missed if we didn’t make it.”
The company got its start with a man named Nathan Brackett. Brackett was trained as a mechanical engineer. He was working for his father at Orr & Jennings Machinists in Portland when he started tinkering with a lobster block designed by his father in the 1930s. A Cape Elizabeth lobsterman tested a few of Brackett’s designs at sea, then Brackett went back to tinkering. Finally, in 1973 he introduced the Orr & Jennings lobster block (now called the Superior Size 4 Hi-Lip block). In 1982, Brackett decided to focus solely on lobster blocks and named his company Superior Marine Products.
Business hummed along. In 2000, Brackett sold his company to a friend, Dean Bridges, who had been in the metal fabrication business for 30 years. Bridges was a gregarious man. He focused his attention on what lobstermen wanted — and what they wanted was a lighter version of the old lobster block. He too began to tinker and eventually came up with the design for an all-stainless lobster block that could withstand constant exposure to salt water. He also created a UHMW poly sheave for all block sizes.
Time passed, as it has a habit of doing. In 2015, Bridges hired David Lawler, a friend and fellow metal fabricator, to take over the manufacturing end of the company. Bridges passed away in 2018, at which time Kristin and Phil Stanley, owners of PCS Performance in Gray, purchased the business. PCS Performance is a metal fabrication company that works in stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, steel and chromoly.
“The connection came through Dave Lawler. He wanted some part-time work and we hired him at PCS. Dean had mostly retired by then. That’s how we knew of the business,” Kristin Stanley explained. Superior Marine Products was a natural fit for the Stanley’s. “It’s a great product and has an excellent following,” Stanley said. “The final design hasn’t changed in more than 40 years. It works well and lasts as long as lobstermen expect it.”
Sales continue to remain strong despite the uncertain start to the fishing season. There are other products that Stanley thinks they might develop for the use of fishermen but for now, the couple is content to keep their two businesses on a steady course. And part of that steady course is continued support for the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA).
“We like what the MLA does to support lobstermen,” Stanley said simply. “It’s a strong organization and it gives us good exposure.”