The Ogunquit Lobster Pound was established by the Hamilton and Varney families in 1931. The location was chosen for its proximity to the tidal, saltwater Ogunquit River and US Route One, the main access road to the state of Maine. They ran the Pound for the next 10 years and then closed down for two years during World War II. In 1944 William Hancock, a captain in the Maine State Police, decided to surprise his wife Hazel with a little present — the Ogunquit Lobster Pound Restaurant!!!
He had always loved the location and thought it would be a wonderful business to run. Hazel was not excited! She had never run a restaurant before and had very little experience working in them. In July of 1945 in the middle of their second season, William died unexpectedly, leaving Hazel with the formidable task of running the Pound by herself. With the help of her three sisters, Mina, Fanny, and Romy, she ran a successful business for the next 22 years.
In 1967 Hazel’s son William Jr., also a captain in the Maine State Police, and his wife Alma took over the Pound. In 1968 they expanded for the first time, adding more seating and modernizing the kitchen. 1968 was also the year they hired Don Neill to sell lobsters outside at the pound. Don quickly became an icon in his own right, not only for his ability to pick a lobster to the exact ounce on the first try, but also for his wit and charm. He worked here for so many years that many people assumed he was the owner, and Don never told them otherwise. In 1973 Bill and Alma did a major renovation and expansion that included a new kitchen, a bar, and a new large dining room with a fieldstone fireplace. The Pound evolved from a self-service only operation to a full-service restaurant inside. In 1983 a second large dining room was added, doubling the capacity.
In 1984 Bill bought out his parents and waved goodbye to them as they began a well-deserved retirement. The tradition of family members working in the business continues, with Bill’s sister Lisa, his son Bryan, and Lisa’s daughter Meg, all still actively involved in the daily operations of the restaurant.