By Rebecca Docter
LSU alumnus Thomas “Trey” Killeen has brought the buoy to the bayou with his lobster delivery service, Southern Buoy Lobster.
“I felt like it was a good opportunity to mix some of our culture with that culture,” Killeen said.
Growing up, Killeen used to visit his family in Massachusetts, which included fourth generation lobster fishermen. During a few visits, he went out on the boat with his family and became enamored with the process. Once he analyzed the process more, he said he realized that his relatives took the crustacean they had for granted because back home in Louisiana, the lack of lobster makes the cost much higher. So, as any businessman would, he came up with a plan.
“I thought that there’s certainly a niche to bring down here and make it more affordable to people, but not jeopardize the quality,” Killeen said.
Killeen runs his business out of LSU’s Louisiana Business and Technology Business Incubator, “an organization designed to enhance the development and growth of new and established businesses by assisting entrepreneurs with company operations and supplying resources that are fundamental for success,” according to its website.
Right now, Killeen is focusing on wholesale and getting contracts with restaurants. He recently delivered an order to the Baton Rouge Country Club and had other deals in the works. He said because the business is new, he’s still learning how to conduct his business through experience.
“I’ve tested a few different suppliers, just to see what the best route will be, and the family connection has really helped out a lot,” Killeen said.
Though his website offers one product, that product comes in a few different varieties. Southern Buoy offers lobster, lobster meat and lobster rolls, the company’s best seller when it comes to individual buyers.
The lobster roll kit comes complete with instructions, a half-pound of lobster meat, sauce, and three rolls. Both the sauce, a sweet chili sauce, and roll, an herbal roll, are made locally. Killeen said he sampled three sauces, but eventually chose sweet chili because he felt it complemented the lobster best while also introducing a new flavor.
“In the northeast, their food is kind of bland for the most part, so whenever we go up there, we always bring spices and seasonings,” Killeen said. “They really like lobster just the way it is, by itself, and just a lot of butter.”
Killeen said he thinks individual customers opt for the lobster roll kit rather than live lobsters because they’re intimidated by the process of cooking them.
Lobsters don’t have a central nervous system, so they don’t feel pain, Killeen said. When a lobster thrashes around when it’s being boiled, it’s just a reflex. He said he thinks people usually are confused by this, and it turns them off of the lobster boiling process.
In a state where crustaceans run rampant, one might believe that bringing lobster into the equation might equal a competition with crawfish, but Killeen sees it differently. He thinks the two can work together to complement each other. He said they could even be boiled the same way.
“If you wanted to have a crawfish boil, why not throw a few lobster in there?” Killeen said.
With football season on the horizon, Killeen plans to incorporate a tailgate package to his business.