Whether you’re a resident of Cape Cod or just a seasonal visitor, you likely know about the Lobster Trap Restaurant – a seafood landmark in Bourne. “The Trap” (as the owner, Dave Delancey, calls it) is well known in the region for its high-quality dining and bar, relaxing patio space and fresh fish market.
What started as a neighborhood fish market and small restaurant with 15 employees has evolved into a thriving staple in the community with 70 year-round employees that’s open seven days a week.
While Dave views himself as “just the caretaker of the Trap,” he’s an integral part of the restaurant’s growth and success. We caught up with Dave to learn more about his story and the keys to Lobster Trap’s success.
Dave started working in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher since he was in junior high. In his early 20s, he started working at the Lobster Trap. Back then, Dave didn’t predict that he’d buy the business a few years later at the age of 25.
With decades of ownership under his belt, Dave now views his work as less of a “job” and more of a lifestyle, requiring a lot of faith, creativity, resilience and work ethic. But with a supportive family and a great relationship with his employees, it’s all worth it to him – especially when he sees customers coming through the doors to enjoy some local cuisine, cocktails and relaxation. Brightening people’s days and lightening their moods is why he’s been in it for the long haul.
Some of the biggest challenges Dave had to overcome as the owner of the Lobster Trap were financial. When he first purchased the restaurant in his mid-twenties, Dave used private financing, and had very little operating capital. During this time, he worked long hours and utilized credit cards to pay personal bills.
How to Pay Your Business Bills
Since the Lobster Trap is a Cape Cod fixture, it was important to Dave to find a bank local to the Southcoast that would be familiar with the area’s charm when he decided to pursue more conventional business financing.
Dave reached out to Rockland Trust for help on a development project. As the relationship grew, Adrian Rawn, Commercial Lending Center Manager and Eve Elliott, Business Banking Officer took note of how Dave’s attention to detail and support of his employees has enabled him to thrive. The rest is history. Adrian shared, “It’s been fun to watch the business grow, even mid-pandemic, and witness Dave’s resiliency. It’s amazing to see how he’s been crushing it.”
But the Lobster Trap wasn’t immune to the pummeling that the entire restaurant industry took during the pandemic. Due to restrictions in early 2020, the Trap had to close for a month.
When the business was finally able to open (with restrictions), it was in “survival mode,” weathering COVID-19, purchasing and supply chain issues. Dave noted that he leaned into his banking relationship with Rockland Trust during the pandemic and worked closely with his banking team for resources and guidance.
The Lobster Trap was one of the first companies to turn to Rockland Trust to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan: government-sponsored loans for small businesses. Rockland’s team walked Dave through the process, and with that loan, he was able to give employees extra hazard pay and a salary boost. Being able to prioritize employees, especially during times of turmoil, was a moment of pride for him.
Managing Your Business Through a Changing Economy
The PPP loan helped the Trap weather 2020, and in March 2021, the restaurant closed for a period again to complete major renovations. These renovations improved plumbing, mechanics, parking, equipment, seating and more while keeping the classic Lobster Trap “vibe” that customers know and love. A few months later, Dave purchased a second restaurant space and gutted it – which required Rockland Trust’s help to secure a construction loan and extra cash for the buildout. Fast forward to 2022, and that updated restaurant, Trading Post Lounge, is exceeding revenue goals and able to put money away in savings for the future.
Throughout his time as the caretaker of the Trap, Dave has led by example. He’s a firm believer in not asking his employees to do things he’s not willing to do himself, but also holds his team to high standards.
Why Company Culture is So Important
When asked how he’s been able to build a team as closely knit as a family, he says it comes down to the fact that he is constantly looking out for his employees’ futures and finding new ways to lift them up. Just as he was mentored as a 12-year-old dishwasher, he pushes his younger staff members to pursue their passions and meet their personal goals. But while intangible things, like career guidance and tough love, are key to his leadership style, he also takes care of his employees’ more immediate needs by providing every person on the team with paid vacation, sick time, retirement, and health care benefits. Despite the impact to revenue during the early days of the pandemic, Dave paid for employees’ health care costs out of pocket for four months to ensure there wasn’t a gap in benefits coverage for his team while times were uncertain.
After all, just like in his college football career, his team “wins together and loses together.”
The right team of business advisors is imperative for business owners of any size. Knowing who to turn to in order to achieve your goals can make a big difference in the outcome for your business. Rockland Trust’s expert team of business banking officers care about your business’s unique story and are ready to support your journey.
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