YARMOUTH — Lynn Goldfarb of Cumberland Foreside popped into the little white building on Route 1 Monday with a springtime craving familiar to a lot of Maine residents.

“Any chance of getting a lobster roll?” she asked Dennis Owens, a co-owner of Day’s Crabmeat & Lobster who was working on the lobster pound side of the business.

“No, they don’t open until Wednesday,” he replied, referring to the take-out stand next door. “Wednesday at 11.”

Then Goldfarb, like many customers before her, asked if Day’s had been sold yet. The building with the big red lobster on the side has been a landmark on Route 1 for more than 70 years, and has been owned or co-owned by Sandy Owens, Dennis Owens’ wife, since 1988. She and her husband are trying to sell the business, the building and their home next to it. The asking price is $950,000.

“Nothing ever stays the same,” said Goldfarb, who has been coming here to buy crab and lobster rolls for five years “after passing it for 40 years.”

Sandy Owens has worked at Day’s from mid-May through mid-October, seven days a week, since she was 16 and got a job weighing crabmeat for $2.90 an hour. Now 55, she’s ready to move on with her life.

What will she do? “This is my 39th season, so just something different,” Owens said.

Like, maybe enjoy a Maine summer for the first time in four decades?

“I don’t know what, but something different,” Owens repeated, sitting in the old picking room that once housed 30 crab pickers, back when Day’s had a wholesale business. “Life is too short.”


Day’s location – it’s within spitting distance of Interstate 295 and sits (literally) on the Cousins River marsh – makes it a magnet for tourists and locals alike. Customers are as likely to arrive by canoe or kayak as by car.

“I have generations and generations coming here, and I love it,” Sandy Owens said. “They bring their little grandkids in here. It’s like their pit stop on the way up north. They’ve always gotten their lobsters here. Their grandfather got their lobsters here. They like the character of the old building, the historical part. It keeps them coming back.”

The business was born in the 1920s, when brothers John and Charles Hilton sold crabmeat and crab rolls from a small building at Porter’s Landing in Freeport. Selling crab rolls was a new thing back then. The lobster fishery was in decline (lobster was being sold for 20 cents a pound, compared with penny-a-piece crab), and more and more sand crabs (now known as peekytoe crabs) were showing up in lobster traps.

In 1924-25, the Hilton brothers moved their building to its current location and added a restaurant called The Marshes Dining Room. The Hiltons sold the business to Robert Neal Day Sr. in 1946. Day and his family lived on the restaurant side of the building that now houses the take-out stand. His son, Robert Day Jr., purchased the business nine years later and ran it for 35 summers.

Soon after they bought the place, the Days brought in seals as an attraction. Customers could go out back, where the picnic tables are now, and pet and feed the animals.

Day built a three-bedroom home next to the lobster pound, the same home where the Owenses spend summers now. (In the winter, they live at their camp in Eagle Lake.) Living next door comes in handy when lobsters are delivered in the middle of the night, Sandy Owens said.

Owens started working at Day’s in 1976. Her boyfriend had worked there since he was 14 and helped get her the job. After high school, Owens thought about a career as a dental assistant, but never pursued it. “This was my college,” she said.


Owens and her boyfriend married in 1980. In 1988, when the Days were ready to retire, they offered the young couple the first option to buy the business. The couple owned Day’s together until they divorced, and Sandy Owens became the sole owner in 1993. That same year, Owens opened the take-out side of the business, which ultimately overtook the wholesale operation that had been selling to local grocery stores and restaurants. The number of crab pickers employed plummeted from 30 to two.

Today, Owens employs four full-timers and 15 to 20 part-timers, mostly college and high school students. Owens said she probably never would have seen her own children, Katie and Tyler, if they hadn’t worked at Day’s. The business helped put both of them through college.

“They knew what a hard day’s work was,” Owens said.

About a dozen picnic tables overlook the marsh. Customers can eat their haddock nuggets, fried scallop dinners and whole belly clams there and ignore the sound of nearby traffic. Wildlife sightings have included moose, fox, deer, egrets and a family of Canada geese.

Over the years, some customers’ cars – and even a mobile home – have ended up in the water, Owens said. “We’ve had people drive in the marsh before because they forgot to put their brake on,” she said.

Celebrity sightings have included Bizarre Foods TV host Andrew Zimmern, who signed the building. “It’s his father’s favorite place to get a lobster roll,” Owens said. “When Andrew’s in town, he always brings him here. Andrew always orders steamers.”


Day’s “famous” lobster roll is served on a grilled roll, with or without mayonnaise. Each roll contains the meat of one lobster. Owens says what makes hers different is she cuts up the lobster tail so it’s easier to eat. That’s the way she likes it. “I serve what I want to eat,” she said.

On a busy summer weekend, Day’s can sell 30 crates of lobsters. A single crate holds 90 pounds of them.

“It’s a great business,” Owens said. “Of course, you put your hours in, seven days a week. Any seasonal business, you work your butt off until it dies down.”

Commercial broker Scott Balfour of Magnusson Balfour said Day’s financials are strong for a seasonal business.

“There’s enough income coming out of this for someone to make a full year’s wage,” he said. Owens hopes to sell Day’s quickly, but said she and her husband will keep operating the business “as long as it takes” because they still have bills to pay. “When it happens, it happens,” she said.

“We’d like someone to come in here and do the same thing we’re doing,” she said. “We don’t want someone to … make a McDonald’s out of it. We’re hoping it would be the same business to keep the tradition and the legacy of it all.”


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