'Deadliest Catch' boat opens shop in Homer

Posted: Thursday, June 11, 2009

HOMER - Yo ho ho, banditas: If you've been longing for a genuine Time Bandit logo hoody, no longer do you have to wrassle someone from the crew at the Salty Dawg -- or go to the Time Bandit online store. This summer, the F/V Time Bandit, Homer's own crab fishing boat featured on the popular Discovery Channel show "The Deadliest Catch," sells its wares at a shop on the Homer Spit.

Looking for a Time Bandit sticker with the skull-and-crossbones logo? How about a coffee mug with the logo or a drawing of the Time Bandit? A Time Bandit pirate flag? A Time Bandit floating keychain? Time Bandit Productions sells pretty much everything and anything with the ship's logo. You also can get autographed copies of "Time Bandit: Two Brothers, The Bering Sea and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs," the memoir written by Capt. Johnathan Hillstrand and Capt. Andy Hillstrand, the brothers who run the big black fishing boat.

Along with some pretty cool gear, the Time Bandit shop offers a bit more: some personal Homer Spit and fishing history from proprietor Lu Lovelace.

"I haven't had this much fun in a long time," she said.

Lovelace, who came to Homer 35 summers ago, got her first job working at Land's End for the Hillstrands' grandmother, Mary Jane Hillstrand, the original founder with her husband Earl Hillstrand. The Time Bandit shop is at Cannery Row Boardwalk, built by the late John Hillstrand, the Hillstrands' father. Lovelace also fished tanner crab with John Hillstrand in 1977 and worked for him when he started Coal Point Trading Company.

"This is the third generation of Hillstrands I've worked for," Lovelace said.

After the success of "The Deadliest Catch," now in its fifth season, the Hillstrands started selling Time Bandit gear through their Web site, www.timebandit.tv. Lovelace presented the idea to the Hillstrands to put up a storefront on the Spit.

"I've been watching the boys ride the wave," Lovelace said of their success. "It seemed like it would work for them. They were born and raised here."

Lovelace is no stranger to retail. With Barb Scalzi, she helped start North Wind Fine Gifts (now North Wind Home Collection) and was a partner with Scalzi for 14 years. She brings to the Time Bandit Store her experience in customer relations as well as a long affiliation with the commercial fishing industry.

Earlier last week, Johnathan Hillstrand stopped by the shop and drew a line of customers. He signed everything and anything, and was particularly good about talking with kids, Lovelace said.

The Hillstrands call themselves "a bunch of dingaling crab fishermen," but to fans of "The Deadliest Catch," they're like rock stars.

"People were so excited to see him," Lovelace said of Johnathan's recent appearance. "It blows him away."

As they're in town, the Hillstrands and other Time Bandit crew plan special appearances. E-mail Lovelace at timebanditstore@gmail.com to get on a mailing list.

Right now, Johnathan Hillstrand is at sea with the Time Bandit doing tendering for the herring fishery. That's the answer to the number one questions customers ask, Lovelace said: "Where's the Time Bandit?"

The second-most common question?

"How are you related?" she said. "I tell them, 'I'm not related, but I'm a close family friend.'"

The Time Bandit Store is not officially affiliated with "The Deadliest Catch" and because of licensing restrictions does not sell Discovery Channel or "Deadliest Catch" products.

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