Sara Finnerty's fears were wrapped into one question she would ask herself: "Why in the world would you sell lobster in Western New York, and why would people buy it?"
Finnerty, owner of the Maine Bite, a new food trailer operating out of East Aurora, has been pleasantly surprised with the village's response to her $18 lobster rolls and $6 New England clam chowder.
"[Lobster rolls] are a nostalgic treat," Finnerty said. "It reminds people of a vacation they took or one they want to take. It's a boutique market, but people are willing to treat themselves."
Even if some customers drop by with ulterior motives, the new food trailer owner – equipped with a food truck license – has been persuasive.
"Some customers want to check the legitimacy of what I'm doing, but once they hear my story, most people are receptive," she said.
Finnerty was born in Massachusetts, attended Bowdoin University in Maine and then returned home to manage Boston restaurants. She has lived in Seafood Central for much of her life before relocating to East Aurora six years ago.
With her four children now in school – two at Nichols School, and two at Immaculate Conception – she's transitioning away from being a stay-at-home mother into this new food venture. A Kickstarter campaign netted Finnerty $2,752 to go toward her Erie County Health Department permits and to equip her trailer, a 1981 vessel previously used to vend souvlaki at county fairs.
The new food truck sources directly from Maine, specifically 100% lobster tail meat with no imitation meat or fillers, a fairly uncommon practice, Finnerty believes. The filling of her roll is simple but precise, working in chunk lobster, mayonnaise and a light dressing to "let the lobster shine" but still offering creaminess and complementary flavor.
The lobster offerings are the signature roll (grilled roll, cold lobster), a grilled lobster option as a sandwich (warm lobster, essentially a lobster panini) and a naked lobster, available for gluten-free eaters, served on lettuce.
[Related: Why do food trucks still open after trend has cooled? Learn the stories behind other newcomers]
Tracking down New England-style rolls, which she butters and grills before serving the roll, has been a challenge. "I've gone all over creation to find them," she said, before eventually stumbling upon six packs at select Tops Markets.
The Maine Bite was decorated to resemble a lobster shack before Finnerty's first day of service, June 8 at the East Aurora Music Festival, where she sold out before the event's end.
After serving at two Backyard Bash concerts behind Vidler's, Finnerty finally felt comfortable enough to begin regular service on Main Street in the village, five days per week (Wednesday through Sunday, but open to change), in late August. She plans to continue through the fall – when the New England clam chowder should shine – and at special events throughout the year.