Present an entrepreneurial spirit with the right opportunity, then step back and watch the magic happen: The ambitious among us are unable to resist the pull.
That’s certainly the case for Logan Rackliff, who founded and co-owns The Rope Co. in Warren, Maine, with his wife, Hannah. It’s also the case for his forefathers—a long line of entrepreneurs and seamen who paved the way for Rackliff to take the reins of “the family business” by carving his own path.
Rackliff is a fifth-generation lobsterman. He’s been on boats since he was 5, and has had his own since age 9 or 10; his great-great-grandfather was a steamboat captain, so seafaring is in his blood. Couple that with a background in textiles—his maternal great-grandfather brought lace-making over from England when he immigrated to Rhode Island after World War I—and his rope business only makes sense.
“My grandfather grew up making lace in a manufacturing capacity and took over that business from his father when he was 18,” Rackliff said. However, his grandfather saw the lace business going by the wayside, and around the same time, his family visited Maine. There, he saw firsthand the healthy demand for a product he figured he could easily transition into: rope.
A go-getter, he jumped at the opportunity and soon found someone in Rhode Island who knew how to make rope, then began making it himself. The family eventually relocated to coastal Maine and established themselves in a hamlet dominated by lobstering. Pivoting away from lace, Rackliff’s grandfather built and ran Crowe Rope, which grew to sell everything from lobstering rope to hammocks to customers across the country, from the mid-1980s until he sold it in 1994.
Interestingly, before he sold that rope business, Rackliff’s grandfather had started making rope doormats. “Somebody had shown him how to make them where he made rope,” Rackliff said. “They made a few, but never really got into it or took off.”
In 1998, leaning on the knowledge gleaned under his father-in-law, Rackliff’s father started his own rope business, High-Liner Rope. A lifelong lobsterman himself—“since when he could walk, basically,” Rackliff said—he was intimately familiar with the lobster industry and its needs, and “he also knew a lot about rope-making and the machines.” It was an obvious opportunity, with demand for lobstering materials, such as rope, so high. It proved to be a good move—today, High-Liner Rope is still used by most lobstermen from Canada to Florida.
Making the Jump
So where does Rackliff himself fit into all this? In 2010, Rackliff was a recent graduate with a degree in construction management engineering. However, he found himself turning back to the family business of lobstering and uninterested in pursuing a career in what he had studied. It’s hard to blame him for being unable to resist the call of sea-centric living.
“My grandfather was actually trying to get my mother or my sister or somebody to start making these rope doormats. He always had it in the back of his mind that this was a good idea,” Rackliff said. “My father made rope; it just seemed like a great opportunity. So I came out of college, didn’t like what my major was, basically, and I just kept going lobstering, but decided I was going to start my own business.”
In 2013, he embraced the entrepreneurial spirit of his forefathers and began making rope doormats.
Today, the Rope Co. makes a variety of mats, rugs, and baskets with a focus on high quality and timelessness, which translates to neutral colors and materials that last. Their products are designed and handwoven in Maine, using commercial-grade fishing rope, a material tested and tried by the unforgiving waters off the coast and the hardy fishermen who brave them.
“It’s the same rope that lobster and crab fishermen use to haul their traps with,” Rackliff said. “It’s got to withstand the rigors of the Atlantic Ocean for seven or eight years.” The result is durable, water-resistant home goods that can weather all of life’s storms without growing mold or mildew—investment pieces at once rugged and stylish.
The majority of their rope is still sourced from High-Liner Rope, Rackliff’s father’s local mill, though just in recent months, they have expanded into sourcing globally as well. Still, each product comes with a strong sense of place.
“All our products are made on jigs; they’re all handmade,” Rackliff said. “It’s good, local Maine people making them right now, and we hope to keep it that way.”
Forward With Faith
At the beginning of the business, Rackliff said, he was focused on finding a way to make money. After devoting his life to his faith in earnest several years ago, however, his drive became bigger.
“We want to be a signpost to God’s creation and reflect his goodness,” Rackliff said. “Obviously we can’t even come close to anything he’s ever done—we’re just making stuff—but with … everything we make, our focus is that it’s great, useful quality and that we’re a blessing to people.”
Using the work of his hands to reflect the heart of his faith is important to Rackliff; another way he likes to explain The Rope Co.’s product line is “where home meets creation and where creation meets home.” That’s why the company isn’t out to exhibit cutthroat competition in the besotted home-goods industry, nor to grow the fastest or do it cheapest in order to maximize profits and pad their own pockets, he said. Instead, their focus remains steadfast on quality goods and ethical, down-home operations.
In explaining what’s next for The Rope Co., Rackliff cited a story about Chick-Fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy’s behavior in a board meeting focused on growth and keeping up with the competition. As the story goes, Cathy began to pound on the table, an uncharacteristic interruption, and exclaim that he was sick and tired of all the talk about getting bigger. Instead, he said, “If we get better, our customers will demand we get bigger!”
“So that’s really all I’m doing,” Rackliff said. “I’m just focused on constantly getting better.”
The Rope Co.’s products are available for nationwide shipping at TheRopeCo.com
Skye Sherman is a freelance travel writer based in West Palm Beach, Fla. She covers news, transit, and international destinations for a variety of outlets. You can follow her adventures on Instagram and Twitter @skyesherman.