June 26, 2016
Dan Beck believes there’s an art to creating the perfect lobster roll.
Chilled lobster. Careful combination of mayo and lemon butter. Evenly toasted New England bun.
You won’t find it at a white tablecloth restaurant, he said. But instead, in a ma-and-pop shack on the side of the road in Maine.
Or here in Annapolis, where Beck works to recreate the experience on Main Street.
“We’re trying to make a lobster roll authentic to its roots,” said Beck, founder and president of Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls.
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls, 188 Main St., has plans to build franchises all over the country. Only in its third year, the Annapolis-based restaurant attributes its success to Beck’s vision of staying true to the simplicity of the classic New England lobster roll.
Beck spent much of his adult life in the restaurant industry as a wholesale seafood buyer. Over the years, he noticed the gaining popularity of lobster. When visiting Maine, Beck was inspired by the locals’ traditional respect for their seafood. In 2014, after moving to Annapolis from North Carolina, Beck attempted to recreate that setting in Mason’s, which is named after his son.
Beck wanted Mason’s to be in the style of a fast-casual restaurant because it kept in line with the spirit of how lobster rolls are eaten and sold in Maine: quick, easy, fresh.
He uses his connections with lobstermen in Maine to get the freshest lobster. The delicacy is captured in Portland, Maine and then placed in a pressure steamer to crack the shell and package the meat. It’s then sent to a seafood complex in Boston, where it is finally delivered to a depot in Jessup.
“People think we fly the lobsters in on a plane,” he said.
Yuriy Fedoriv, manager at Mason’s Lobster Roll in downtown Annapolis, places the final touch on a Classic Lobster Rol on Thursday afternoon. (Matthew Cole / Capital Gazette)
The restaurant offers four types of lobster rolls for $14, with the most popular being the Classic Lobster Roll and the Connecticut Roll. The difference in preparation, Beck
said, is the later roll is served warmly with lemon butter.
Customers can also attempt a whole roll, which is 1.25 pounds of lobster.
While Beck has owned other restaurants, Mason’s is the first that has such an immediate strong response. Almost everyday, customers will tell Mason or his staff that the lobster rolls are better than those in Maine, he said.
“You would think there are a 100 million people living in Maine with the number of people who talk to me about these lobster rolls.”
One of the reasons Mason’s has been successful is the staff’s bond, said Sarah Newnam, the store’s manager. A majority of the staff members are friends outside of work and have become close with a group of regular customers.
The staff looks to him as a father figure, she said.
“He’s not one of those owners who never comes into the shop,” she said. “He works with us.”
Mason’s revenue has increased by 40 percent in three years, said Richard Sharoff, CEO of FranPoint Partners, a franchising consultant. Mason’s hopes to open its first franchise within the next year and has seen interest from New York to Texas.
“It’s not a scary thing for me,” Beck said. “It’s exciting that it could have this potential.”