The holidays mean decadence. Fatty foods proliferate, bank accounts go negative and children risk becoming spoiled. In the spirit of overindulgence, Asheville can now add fresh Maine lobster to the holiday table. Especially since this well-armored delicacy is now available fresher and at a cheaper price than in area grocery stores.
How is this possible in WNC, which lies 1,200 miles from Maine, the nearest lobster locale? Enter Michael Scharf, owner of the local Lobster Club. Scharf’s company is a buyers’ club, but lacks the requirements usually associated with such ventures: there is no commitment, no membership fee and (best of all) no minimum order.
On the last Monday of each month, Scharf emails members the size lobsters that are available and price per pound. Clients email or call the order in by Tuesday evening at 8 p.m., then Scharf delivers the fresh lobsters that Friday in front of the Innsbruck Mall. Customers pay cash and bring a nylon bag or cooler for toting their future dinner home. This month, Scharf will deliver his delicacies on Monday, Dec.30 in time for New Year’s dinners and parties. An additional delivery on Monday, Dec. 23 could materialize if the demand is high enough.
Scharf orders the lobsters directly from contacts he made when he owned a seafood company in New York in the 1970s, and they are trucked to Asheville where Scharf, who lives in Fairview, drives 120 miles in his Yukon SUV to do the pick up and delivery. “I meet a truck two hours out since none of the suppliers will come directly here,” says Scharf.
Scharf’s bare-bones approach and his knowledge of the business keeps his prices from going astronomical. He says that on average customers pay about $4 less per pound for his lobster than they would in local grocery stores. Right now, the per-pound savings compared to local supermarkets is running at around $3, Xpress confirmed.
Scharf previously owned a local business, Lobstermania, that sold seafood to hotels and restaurants including The Omni Grove Park Inn, Biltmore Estate and Corner Kitchen. He found that found that work to be tough and he retired for a short time, then decided to get back into the business about five months ago. This time, he exchanged the restaurant-based relationships for the one-on-one relationships of the Lobster Club, and he says his new arrangement remains stress-free.
“I’m having a lot of fun doing it. It gives me something to do. The brainstorming is the big part,” he laughed.
Scharf also sells frozen lobster tails for folks who can’t wait for the weekly deliveries, and is interested in working with dinner parties. “I would love to be a part of dinners where people are having my lobster. I could hand out brochures and talk about my company.”
These days, his reputation is growing thanks to a television appearance with one of Asheville’s premiere chefs, William Dissen of The Market Place restaurant. Dissen demonstrated lobster dishes on WLOS-TV’S “Carolina Kitchen Show” on Nov. 8, while Scharf sat by his side. “I introduced the Lobster Club and my name,” he said. “The show went smoothly.”
It was so smooth that Scharf may soon grace the cooking show again . “The producer said she would like to have me on more with other chefs,” he confirmed. Which chef, Scharf wouldn’t say, but the gleam in his eye indicated big names. For now, he’ll gather more clients (he currently has around 200, but the goal is 600 or more), relying on word of mouth, even from 1,200 miles away. “I had a client that moved in from Portland, Maine. They were used to eating lobster everyday,” said Scharf. “They tell me my lobster is the best they’ve ever had.”
Scharf is sending out an email to members to gauge interest for a Christmas delivery. Check here for details.