When Russ Pinkham made the decision to move his seafood market from a few miles out of town, on Route 27, closer to the hub of activity in Boothbay Harbor, he and his wife, Cathy, were planning to simply open another seafood market in a new building.
But sometime along the way, as the contemporary, upscale building was under construction, the Pinkhams, who were planning to rent half the space, decided to take over the whole building.
Pinkham’s Gourmet Market, pinkhamseafood.com, across Route 27 from Hammond Lumber, opened July 27. Fresh, local seafood is still a big part of the business, but there’s also a top-of-the-line meat counter manned by a well-known local butcher, Peter Hurst.
Though Pinkham stops short of calling his new market a supermarket, with the local produce, dairy items, wine, and a wide selection of specialty and frozen items, customers can stop in and find everything they’ll need, and want, for dinner. “We just wanted to give people a different choice, and they’re coming in here and thanking me, and saying they’re awestruck with the building,” Pinkham said.
Russ Pinkham, who worked as a commercial fisherman for 25 years, has been in the business of fresh seafood since 1985, when his parents, Larry and Susan Pinkham, opened the first Pinkham’s Seafood on River Road in Boothbay.
He took over the business in 2008, after his mother died. In 2014, he moved it to the former site of Lisa’s Lunchbox on Route 27, where it thrived for four years.
When the opportunity to move to a new, bigger location, closer to town, presented itself, the Pinkhams jumped on it.
John Wagner, who has a home in East Boothbay, designed and owns the building. Much of the wood, including huge rafters and a huge mast and boom that tower over the seafood section of the market, was cut in his warehouse in Reno, and all the parts were shipped to the construction site. Pinkham oversaw the construction.
It was Wagner who put the bug in Pinkham’s ear to expand from just seafood to a meat counter and specialty groceries. “He said, ‘You’ve got the opportunity, so why not just do it?’” Pinkham said. “A lot of people were coming into my other place saying, ‘Well, now we have to go down the road for meat because we don’t all eat seafood.’”
The meat counter has proved to be a big draw for the market, Pinkham said. The meat is all Certified Angus Beef. “We wanted good beef – affordable, but good,” Pinkham said. “The (Certified Angus Beef) has more than met my expectations, and customers have been raving about it.”
The pork, which comes from Iowa, costs 30 or 40 cents a pound more than regular pork, but the difference is huge, Pinkham said. The chicken is “Smart Chicken.” It’s air-chilled, as opposed to soaked in a brine. “It’s top-of-the-line. Once you try it, you won’t go back.”
The hamburger is all ground chuck. Hurst puts it through the grinder twice, to make it especially tender. And the Tomahawk steaks, which look like something out of a Flintstones cartoon, are a conversation starter. “People walk out of here looking like they’re holding a big dinosaur bone,” Pinkham said.
Hurst has been working at meat counters since the ’80s, when he worked at Carbone’s Market in Boothbay Harbor. “We closed that store on Oct. 30, 1992 at 12 o’clock,” he said. “I started at Yellowfront (Grocery, in Damariscotta) at 12:30.” He worked at Yellowfront, then Main Street Grocery, until moving to Pinkham’s in July.
The butcher calls Stephen Pierce, a former co-owner and butcher at Yellowfront who now works at Lincoln’s Market in Warren, his mentor in the meat business.
“I worked alongside him for 23 years,” Hurst said. “He’s the best in the business. He’s an incredible role model. He made me the meat cutter I am today.”
The seafood section, which includes a new oyster bar featuring local oysters, offers all the fresh seafood carried in the previous location: lobsters, steamers and littlenecks, swordfish, tuna, Arctic char, haddock, cod, sole, flounder, mussels, crabmeat, lobster meat, shrimp, halibut, and salmon.
There’s a wide selection of specialty items and groceries available, including Duck Trap smoked products, Boston Pride stuffed clams, Hurricane frozen chowders, and State of Maine Cheese, from Rockport.
Cathy Pinkham, a medical assistant at St. Andrews Family Care Center for 15 years, now works at the market full time. Along with ordering all the gourmet and grocery items, she makes seafood chowders and stews, crabcakes and stuffed fish, potato and pasta salads, and other ready-to-eat specialties. There are home-baked beans and ribs, cooked in a smoker outside the building. Lobster stew is available on Fridays, and lobsters are cooked to order.
The wine selection features bottles from $10 to over $100.
The Pinkhams are happy with their decision to expand into areas other than seafood. “The meat counter, and Pete, add a whole new dimension to something that was good, to making it 10 times better,” Russ Pinkham said. “People can come in and get some good ground beef, grab some rolls and a bag of chips, and they’re good to go. That’s what we like seeing.”
The market, at 295 Townsend Ave., is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 633-6236.