“Growing up, I got the ‘Luke, I am your father’ way too much, so it made me actually hate Star Wars,” says Luke Holden, the 33-year-old founder of Luke’s Lobster, the seafood shack with thirteen locations strewn throughout New York City alone. “I never watched any of them growing up, because I always hated hearing that.” It wasn’t until 2015, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released, that he finally sat down to watch the Rebels take on the Empire in the galactic battle of good versus evil. “There was that opportunity to relearn about Star Wars, give it another chance, as a bunch of my teammates [at the company] loved it,” he says. “And that’s where we came up with this.”
By this, Holden is referring to Luke’s Lobster’s nationwide giveaway in honor of opening night for The Last Jedi, the latest installment of the newest Star Wars trilogy. On Friday, December 15, if you’re in possession of a photo ID bearing the name “Luke” or “Lucas,” and you find yourself near any Luke’s location, the sustainable seafood–sourced eatery will slide over a free lobster roll, prepared in the great Maine tradition of chunks of lobster meat graced by a slick of mayo on a split-topped hotdog bun.
A third-generation lobsterman, Holden jokingly refers to his chain’s latest marketing promo as his team’s way of “getting involved with the cultural discussion.” The original trilogy had already blasted its way through blockbuster runs at movie theaters of the late Seventies and early Eighties by the time Holden was born. “[The movies were] worth the hype,” he admits.
The former investment banker opened the original Luke’s Lobster in the East Village back in 2009 as a side project he conceived after finding it difficult to find a quality lobster roll akin to the ones from his seaside youth. “It was a side project with my father,” Holden says of his family affair that now also includes his two younger brothers as partners. “I looked at this as a really neat way to reconnect with my roots.”
Holden now spends most of his time back up in his native state of Maine, and will become a first-time father in the spring. “We’re looking in the baby name books, and ‘Luke’ and ‘Lucas’ are both in the top 25. It’s a trending name right now,” he says, chuckling. Will his seafood shacks accept other derivatives of ‘Luke’ — say, ‘Lucca’ or ‘Lucy’ — in exchange for a lobster roll? “Now you’re reaching too far,” he says, though he admits it’s unlikely they’ll turn away any Lukes or Lucases even after each outpost has given away its allotted twenty free lobster rolls.
“I actually met a bunch of women who had ‘Luke’ or ‘Lucas’ as a last name or middle name,” he says, noting that the promotion isn’t restricted to men. “When we did this back in 2015, there were a couple of shacks that might have had fifty Lukes or something,” he says, citing the East Village as the location that turned out the highest congregation of claimants. “But we figured out how to make it work.”