One of the things I love about writing is the opportunity to meet interesting, unique, unforgettable characters along the way. Some stay with me forever.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Kay Moulton for Northshore Magazine in September 2008 and have never forgotten her. Kay passed away in 2018, a true loss to the Plum Island community; but she will always be remembered as a lovely, bright light of a woman by anyone lucky enough to meet her.
Here is the story of Kay, as it appeared in Northshore Magazine in 2008.
Last September, Greg Palmer of Framingham landed a 54 pound, 5 ounce striper while fishing in the Joppa Flats area at the mouth of the Merrimack River. He then made an even bigger splash by landing his photo on the “wall of fame” at Surfland, a bait and fishing supply store that has been a fixture on Plum Island since 1960.
“It started out as a gimmick,” recalls Newburyport native Kay Moulton, who runs the shop with her husband, Raymond, “When we first opened, people would drive right by. Then Ray came up with the idea to take pictures of anyone who landed a 50-pounder.”
The idea caught on, and so did the word of mouth that has built Surfland into a destination shop for fishermen all over New England and beyond.
While the “wall of fame” has become legendary, so has the shop’s matriarch, the woman known by those in the fishing community simply as “Kay.”
“That’s how I get a lot of my customers,” she says, “The guys will just be out there fishing. One will ask where he can find a certain piece of equipment, and they’ll tell him Go see Kay!’ Or someone will need a rod or reel repair, and they’ll say,Go see Kay!’”
Kay’s knowledge of the business has come from years of listening to her customers, learning which products work and which don’t. She follows their lead in stocking her store, and is known for being a true one stop shop. If someone is going to “go see Kay,” she makes sure she has what they need.
Even in the off-season, Kay opens the shop on weekends so that her regulars can come in, kick back, and talk fish.
“I’ve got a group of guys who are here every Saturday morning, year round” says Kay, “If any new guys come in, my regulars will help them out with advice on what works best and what to buy.”
After almost a half century in business, the center of all this attention still laughs heartily at the idea of being such a point person in the fishing world. After all… she has never fished.
“Oh wait, that’s not true,” she grins, correcting the story, “Ray took me out fishing once. I spent the whole time waving and yelling hello to all my customers! He didn’t bring me out again.”
Just as well she stays onshore; Surfland wouldn’t be Surfland without Kay behind the counter.