Meet the Grocers: Brian of The Island Market & Supply

Nov 18, 2020 10:37:18 AM / by Katherine Ghantous


"When you run a 600 square foot market on an island, everything is in aisle one.


Brian Krafjack, owner, TIMS Swan's Island.

Six days a week, Brian Krafjack is out on the water. Brian, his boat, and his businesses are lifelines for Swan's Island, and neighboring Island, Frenchboro, off the coast of Downeast Maine. He delivers mail, freight, and groceries to residents, making year-round island life possible. Brian and his wife, Kathy, left Connecticut and settled on Swan's Island when they decided they were permanently ready for island life.

"We never thought of (owning) a store. The original idea was to run a boat as a store. (Many of the islands in Downeast Maine do not have any stores). We figured, let's look at the store on Swan's Island. (It was for sale at the time). Let's base ourselves there and see what happens.


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image credit: TIMS facebook page


The Realities of Year-Round Island Life

Seven years later, Brian is now running mail and freight, along with grocery deliveries to Frenchboro, driving an ambulance, volunteering on the fire department, and running the island's only store- The Island Market and Supply (TIMS).

Swan's Island has about 350 residents-year round, with that number swelling during the summer. The primary industry is lobster fishing, with some families fishing and living on the island for generations. Swan's is a tight-knit community where people will do anything to help someone in need. Covid-19 has brought about quite a change in the past six months, with people buying property, sight unseen, to escape more populated areas. The winters on the island can be harsh, and some may only last a season, but for the ones who can tough it out, Brian and Kathy offer the comforts of a community centric store at TIMS.

"TIMS is where you come to meet your neighbors, hear the latest news, and get your FedEx and UPS packages. For visitors, TIMS is where you come to learn about the island and get a little local color (most of which will wash off with a mild detergent). You'd be surprised how many people ask, after driving around for an hour after getting off the ferry, where "downtown" is. We point to the parking lot.


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TIMS in winter. image credit: TIMS facebook page


From Cigarettes & Snickers to Smoking Goose Meatery

When Brian and Kathy arrived on Swan's, TIMS (formerly The Carrying Place) was pretty bare.

"You couldn't get fish, meat, or fresh produce. We had cigarettes, lottery tickets, and Snickers bars- which we still carry. Our goal was to make the store a place where people could make a meal. (Kathy and I) never get a chance to go off-island, so everything we eat and use is from our store.

Brian and Kathy added to the inventory at TIMS, sourcing fresh meat from Maine distributors, dairy and produce from local farms, and connected with Mable to discover unique products for TIMS.

"Mable has allowed us to broaden our offering. We're increasing the variety of cheeses and meats. We brought in Smoking Goose from Indiana and Eddie's Bakery from Vermont; every week, we've been ordering from them. We didn't have access to that sort of thing before.


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image credit: TIMS facebook pag



Most residents still go off-island to shop, but when COVID hit, and the ferry schedule to the mainland was reduced, TIMS's sales soared. In the summer of 2020, many regulars did not return or came later, but Swan's Island saw many newcomers as remote work allowed for extended travel and island life.

Expecting the Unexpected

Living on an island means leaving the island is dependent on the ferry, which depends on the weather, on mechanics, you name it.

"We always say, "expected" in tomorrow; Haddock, Salmon, Scallops, Brake Fluid, and Cake Mix. You can never really be sure about anything. You start the morning off with a plan, and by noon, you're on plan E or F. 



image of Brian's rowboat with a busted oar.  Image credit: TIMS facebook page

Uncertainty presents a challenge for sourcing new vendors for TIMS, as many vendors want to know what their loading dock looks like or they are confused about the location of TIMS.

"With Mable, we can reach a different set of vendors we didn't have access to before. We're so isolated. It is hard to get a new vendor to be interested in you. So, that has always been a challenge. Mable allows us to overcome that. The minimums are reasonable, even for a small store our size.


A Grocer, a Leader, a Lifeline

To combat some of the uncertainty, Brian and Kathy bought the freight company, Hopkins Freight, that services Swan's Island and Frenchboro. Now anything that comes through the island runs through the Krafjacks.

"TIMS depends on that freight business so much. If that evaporates, we'd be in big trouble. It was in danger, so we thought it'd be a good move to try to control that.

Brian and Kathy bought a lobster boat and kept the original owner of Hopkins Freight on as an employee.

"For residents of Frenchboro, TIMS, and our freight company, Hopkins Freight, is a lifeline to the mainland. Daily ferry trips do not serve Frenchboro to and from the mainland. On our mailboat, we bring the mail, groceries from TIMS, FedEx/UPS, boat parts, furnace parts, appliances, mounted moose heads (true story), and the like, six days a week, year-round.



image of freight delivery on Swan's Island. Image credit: TIMS facebook page


TIMS is a community hub and a meeting place for the residents of Swan's Island. It's where people can shop for groceries, pick up their mail, and pick up dinner. TIMS serves lunch and crockpot specials and pizza on Wednesday and Friday nights.

"Some days I'll say to Kathy, "We just served pizza to 15% of the island!!" 


IMG_2247Menu board in TIMS. Every Friday is Pizza Friday, Wednesday, too!

A Bright Future

The few spare hours Brian has a week, he likes to spend time with Kathy watching the seals, porpoise, eagles, loons, and taking in the sunsets from their sunset viewing spot, The Sunset Factory.



Jericho Bay, Swan's Island, ME


As for the future of TIMS, Brian says it will always be a work in progress.

"Our mission is to become part of the island's fabric, without changing it, adapting to the needs of our customers.


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Editors Note: When we called Brian to chat about TIMS, he was sitting outside the store with a cat on his lap. Elsa, the friendly feral cat, is also a permanent resident of Swan's Island, and has been a fixture at TIMS for over 4 years. Elsa lives in an insulated box built into a cozy wood pile behind the store that Brian and Kathy created for her. In a post on TIMS facebook page, a commenter asked if Elsa belongs to the Krafjack's. Brian humbly replied, "I think we belong to her." For more great photos of Elsa the cat, check out TIMS facebook page.

Tags: Meet the Grocers

Katherine Ghantous

Written by Katherine Ghantous