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Home » PEOPLE AND PLACES » CONNECTICUT » Orion Ford: A Life By the Sea
Fords' Lobster Shack
Orion Ford: A Life By the Sea

Fords’ Lobsters, Noank, Connecticut

By Kate Romani | January 13, 2012

To identify some individuals, a first name is all it takes . . . Oprah, Michael, Cher, Tiger, Orion... Rather than bringing to mind the constellation, local residents in Noank, Connecticut immediately think of lobsters – and Orion Ford.

His lobster shack, festooned with buoys, has been the subject of numerous photos and paintings (even a jigsaw puzzle) which are enjoyed across the country, if not the world.

All of Orion’s life, except for his time in the Air Force, was spent within a 25 mile radius of where he was born and where, in the last years of his life, he enjoyed a well earned ‘retirement’ – working ‘only’ 12 hours a day.   He enjoyed sitting in an easy chair by the window, his shack ‘air conditioned’ by the cool sea breezes.   One day he was kind enough to share his scrapbook with me and talk about his early days and the history of Ford’s Lobsters.

Orion’s name and his livelihood, working with his hands and on the sea, have been traditional in his family for three generations.   Grandfather Orion A. was a steamboat captain, working the route from New London to New York.   His father, Orion C. was a carpenter/jointer at Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut working on submarines.   After graduation from Fitch High School, Orion took up his father’s trade as a carpenter at Electric Boat.

Most of his free time was spent lobstering; he started working out of a rowboat, and then advanced to larger boats built in Maine and Nova Scotia.   His final craft was ‘Echo’, a 36 foot boat built by his uncle, a commercial fisherman.   One of Orion’s favorite areas to lobster was Cerberus Shoal, located halfway between Fisher’s Island and Montauk Point.   He also remembered having good luck lobstering in the Race, off the point of Fisher’s Island.

In the 1960’s, Orion sold his lobsters to Abbotts’s - a local restaurant - (for just 45 cents a pound) and helped Mrs. Haring at her gas dock, and paint and hardware store.   Many of the locals remember Mrs. Haring as a colorful character who managed the dock after her husband died.   When working she always wore a man’s pants and shirt, topped off with a Gulf Oil cap.

In 1975, when Electric Boat went on strike, Orion decided to rent out an area in Mrs. Haring’s hardware shop and open up his own lobster business.

This created somewhat of a ‘lobster war’ in Noank between Abbott’s and Ford’s.   Local newspapers covered the story with leads such as ‘What does the price of lobster have to do with submarines?’ As the prices dropped from $2.95 per pound down to $1.99, both lobster businesses denied conducting a price war... although newspapers noted a ‘barrage’ of ads placed in local papers by both businesses.

At that time, Orion was quoted as saying that he would rather take out his boat for lobster than work as a carpenter – but he did return to work at Electric Boat after the strike was over, and retired with twenty years of service.   Ford’s Lobsters then became his full time business.   After Mrs. Haring’s death, the land was sold and Orion leased the property.

Before his death in 2000, Orion could usually be found in his favorite seat by the dock, enjoying the million-dollar view of Mystic River.   When you visit Ford’s to buy lobsters from his partner Kris, you could look over and usually see a steady stream of lobster men, customers, friends and extended family stopping by his shack to check on Orion and pass the time of day.   This man just may have figured out one of the better ways to spend a life by the sea.

In 2010, Kris converted Orion’s shed into a kitchen, and now offers waterfront diners their choice of hot dogs, lobster rolls, grilled fish and fresh raw local oysters. Captains who gas up their craft at the dock can enjoy ‘boat service’ - and have their menu choices cheerfully delivered on board.


Ford’s Lobsters, 15 Riverview Avenue, Noank, Connecticut 06340

(860) 536-2842


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