Very little has changed at Waterman’s Beach Lobster over the past 30 years. The original building has had a few additions, the parking lot has been expanded and they have added more picnic tables. And the setting overlooking Penobscot Bay and primarily the soul of the restaurant – the family that runs it and how they run it – has remained the same.

Until, that is, Sunday, Sept. 4, when the biggest change will take place. The family business will serve its final meals that day and close to the public, marking its final season.

Anne and Nathaniel Cousens decided to build and open Waterman’s Beach Lobster in 1986 – partly because of left over lumber.

“The boys decided to build a wharf,” Anne, 83, said, talking about her lobsterman husband of 62 years, Nathaniel, and her son, David. “They had some materials left over and he [Nathaniel] was sick of me working and only having two weeks of vacation and he had his winters off.”

They decided to build a “shack” so Anne, who was 53 at the time, could sell Nathaniel’s lobsters and just work during the summers when he was hauling. Then the idea came to also sell lobster rolls, clams, crab rolls and Anne’s homemade pies.

“It was very small starting out,” Anne said. “Business was slow at first then with word of mouth it caught on.”

The spot, tucked away on Waterman’s Beach Road, off Route 73 in South Thomaston, has been in Anne’s family since 1850. Anne, whose maiden name is Waterman, was born in the house next door.

When they first opened, a lobster roll cost $7.95 and a crab roll was $5.95. They were open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, seven days a week, Anne said. With winters off, she and her husband could travel and spend time together when he wasn’t fishing.

From the beginning, the business was a family concern. Anne’s daughter, Sandy Manahan, and daughter-in-law Lorri Cousens, David’s wife, worked with Anne.

“We’ve worked the whole time, but it has gotten busier every season,” Lorri said. “Cars now fill the parking lot and line the road.”

In 2001, Lorri and Sandy took over the business and Anne stayed on for a year or so continuing to bake her pies until finally passing along her recipes to have them cooked to her specifications by Cathy Feener. Anne had to put her stamp of approval on the pies first.

“She does many pies I didn’t do,” Anne said of Cathy. “She’s excellent.”

Also in 2001, the restaurant won the James Beard Foundation America's Regional Classics award.

After taking over, Lorri and Sandy continued to operate things in the same way as before – Lorri doing the cooking, Sandy running the window and putting out the same quality product. They have had a great team working there through the years, they said.

“People who say family can’t work together are wrong – this family did,” Sandy said, adding that the work her sister-in-law does in the business is remarkable. “She has the hardest job and has five different burners going and can do it all at the same time. I’m lucky to have her as a sister-in-law, a best friend and as a partner.”

The lobsters are brought in daily by Lorri’s husband, David. The women and the girls who work for them pick a few crates a day, the women said; a crate averages 90 pounds of lobster. While most people now make lobster rolls on hot dog buns, they use hamburger buns, just like Anne did when they first opened. And it’s freshly picked lobster meat – with or without mayo.

“We do the same things here as we always have,” Lorri Cousens said. “Our motto has always been, ‘it is what it is.’ It’s like an old camp you come back to every year and people are like – don’t change it – we like it the way it is. This is one of those cool places that people come to every year – that people look forward to, and we look forward to seeing them and hearing what’s going on in their lives.”

Keeping things simple – cash only, bring your own beer, and serving nothing fried is how they have always done it, Sandy said.

“Simple – the way Mom started it,” she said. “Our kids grew up on this.” The kids – five grandsons – Lorri’s sons Andy, Alex and Sam and Sandy’s sons Todd and Heath – are all fishermen, keeping family traditions and roots alive. Lorri started working in the business when Andy was born.

The decision that this season would be their last was only made about three weeks ago, Sandy said.

“We had to talk to Mom before anything was decided – we didn’t want to disappoint her,” Sandy said.

The business is not being sold or leased, they said. The building may be turned into a summer rental cottage, but no final decisions have been made.

“It’s been 30 years and we’ve been thinking all along that this would be it and it’s time to do other things,” Lorri said. She wants to try paddle boarding and be able to do things that she hasn’t had time for in the summer the past 30 years.

“I’d like to sit on a beach with a bottle of wine and eat lobster that someone else cooked,” Sandy said.

Sandy said they have had people cry when they heard they were closing or read a sign they have posted outside the order window.

“We have our regulars,” Sandy said and have heard from many. “This quiet, soft-spoken man looks at me and he goes ‘this is bullsh*t.’”

A couple from Texas were so upset to hear about the upcoming closure that they have booked a trip to Maine and plan to spend the last five days that Waterman’s is open eating there, Sandy said.

For Anne, the people that she has met over the years are among her favorite memories.

“Generations have come through here,” she said. “I come down now to visit and people said ‘I remember you.’”

Customers have been supportive and understanding of the decision to close, especially those who have run a business themselves, Lorri said.

“It has been a great business and fun and I have made lifelong memories,” Lorri said.

Sandy said she isn’t quite sure what is next for her, but added, “it’s going to be fun.”

“This has been quite a journey,” she said. “It’s time to start a new chapter.”

Waterman’s Beach Lobster will be open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Sunday, Sept. 4. On Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, the family will gather for a private party to say goodbye to the business.