TENANTS HARBOR—Logan and Hannah Rackliff, co-owners of The Rope Co., have fostered a unique home decor business around an unlikely source—float rope, used by lobstermen to attach to lobster traps to the buoy and from trap to trap.
Logan, a fifth generation lobsterman, comes by the profession naturally, both as a working lobsterman and as the descendant of entrepreneurs who started rope companies in Maine.
His grandfather started Crowe Rope which became the largest rope manufacturer in the country from the mid-1980s until he sold it in 1994. His father started his own business, HighLiner Rope in 1998, which even today, is used by the majority of lobstermen from Canada to Florida.
Float rope, once used by every Maine lobsterman as groundlines until 2009 when federal regulations banned the use of it to protect Northern Right Whales, has often been repurposed by enterprising businesses to keep the rope out of landfills. While other businesses fashioned new doormats from that discarded rope, the Rackliffs knew they wanted to go a different direction. Since they had access to brand new rope through the family business, they decided in 2013 to create doormats from new float rope to elevate its appearance with custom, coordinated colors.
“We came into the game after several other companies started making mats from re-purposed rope, but we wanted to create our own path,” said Logan. “We realized we could make any colors we wanted, so instead of high-contrasting colors you’d get from traditional rope—which is meant to stand out with so you can see it—we wanted more muted colors that would match the decor of a home. Now, we’re known as a design company.”
The process, as he explained, takes place when the polypropylene float rope is being formed. Dyes can be added at that point, which bonds with polypropylene. Once the rope is finished, workers weave the doormat on a wooden jig with metal poles in a factory in Machias.
For the Rackliffs, the vision to expand into the home goods market has been a conscious choice. The Rope Co. creates more than doormats; they make chunky, durable rope rugs, placemats, handcrafted sculptural baskets, and keychains.
“Every good idea that has turned into a product has come from Hannah,” said Logan. “We try to create a piece of Maine that people can bring home.”
Logan, who learned how to navigate a lobster boat when he was in grade school, has been lobster fishing his whole life and doesn’t plan on stopping.
After receiving his bachelor's degree at the University of Maine in construction engineering (with one of his three minors in entrepreneurship), he decided that beyond lobstering, it was time to create a business the way his father and grandfather had.
“My grandfather actually conceived of the float rope doormat way back when he was running Crowe Rope, but never had the opportunity to expand it,” said Logan. “I just saw this as a good opportunity and went after it. We took it to the New England Trade Show and the rest is history.”
While The Rope Company’s great team runs the business day-to-day, Logan is thankful he able to carve out time to lobster fish part-time.
“The funny thing is when you grow up in this industry, there are a lot of hard days, some frustrating days, and that’s when you start thinking of how to get out of lobstering and get into another business,” he said. “Now, that I’ve started this business, I have more appreciation for lobstering. Some years I go more; some less, but I’m still working and find that I really enjoy getting out there. It’s still a big part of supporting my family and is part of my heritage.”
For more information visit: The Rope Co.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org