U.S. Marine vet finds niche after military service

FRANKLIN — Rope is not scarce in Maine. Brightly colored polypropylene line, piled on wharves and in the back of pickup trucks, is a familiar element in the coastal landscape.

In 2008, though, Maine lobstermen were required to replace their floating rope with sink line to help the endangered North Atlantic right whales from becoming entangled in the fishing gear. But the old poly-rope is enjoying a second life in the hands of John Crowley and other creative entrepreneurs.

The former Marine corporal, who trained Afghan citizens to become police officers along the volatile Afghanistan-Pakistan border, is putting different skills to use and finding new purpose through the creation of decorative pieces ranging from an American flag wall hanging to camp stools. He was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 2013.

The American flag weaving has been by far the biggest seller. Crowley and his girlfriend/business partner Nichole Moore made and sold 280 at Bar Harbor’s 2014 Fourth of July celebration. Their Old Glory-inspired piece was not intended as a doormat.

“We are selling it as a decorative element,” he said.

During his six years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps, Crowley spent eight months in Afghanistan. At the small outpost, overlooking the Hindu Kush and Torbor mountain ranges, the Addison native served as a range safety officer helping to train the Afghan National Police. He taught fitness, unarmed self-defense, how to handle firearms ranging from handguns to AK-47s and other skills.

“I had a blast teaching them,” the Marine Corps reservist recalled. “I loved every minute of it.”

Coming home to Maine in 2012 and readjusting to civilian life was a process. Like his father, John Crowley Sr., a former Washington County sheriff, he had lobster fished all his life. Browsing, though, one day at Flanders Bay Antiques in East Sullivan, a float-rope rug caught his eye.

“He’s like ‘I can make that,’” remembered Nichole, who encouraged him to try his hand at making one. He already possessed all the raw material coiled along with his father’s old float rope in Addison.

So Crowley constructed a loom and began weaving the vibrant-hued line into rugs, wall hangings and other pieces. Nichole pitched in as well as their respective daughters, Kaydence and Jenna.

Last year, the couple displayed their creations as a trial balloon at The Ellsworth American’s eighth annual Community Yard Sales. All their float-rope pieces sold and The Green Lobster — their cottage enterprise — was born.

Crowley likes to blend his own weathered float rope, as well as old line from his Dad and other fishermen he knows, with new poly-rope. Baby blanket — pastel shades of blue, yellow and green — are among the popular designs. He also has reproduced the Irish Republic and Texas State flags and Afghanistan War ribbon.

Crowley sells his work at J & B. Atlantic in Ellsworth, Anderson Marine & Hardware in Gouldsboro, Two Sisters Café & Deli in Prospect Harbor and the Village Emporium and Happy Crab in Bar Harbor. Learn more about their creation at The Green Lobster on Facebook or by calling 669-2083 or emailing [email protected]

Letitia Baldwin

Arts Editor at The Ellsworth American
In addition to editing the Arts & Leisure section, Letitia edits special sections including Out & About, Overview, Health Quarterly, Your Maine Home, House & Garden and Get Ready for Winter. She comes from Chicago, Ill, but has deep family ties to the Cranberry Isles. [email protected]

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