L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine | A Visit to the Flagship Store
With 3 million visitors each year, the flagship L.L. Bean store in Freeport, Maine is arguably the town’s largest attraction, open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This means that whether it’s slippers, sweaters, or a new duck decoy you want at 2:30 AM, well…you’re in luck. Heading home from the Maine mid-coast on a recent winter Sunday afternoon, I decided to swing through Freeport and check things out.
L.L. Bean was founded in 1912 by avid outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean as a quality retailer of recreational outdoor boots and outdoor gear, and has grown significantly over the years. Today it operates a thriving catalog, online, and retail presence, still adhering to the brand’s dedication to quality, customer service, and a love of the outdoors. This, coupled with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and recent free shipping policy, has earned “Bean’s” a loyal legion of fans not just in Maine and New England, but throughout the world.
The flagship store opened in 1917 (they went 24/7 in 1951), and is one of four L.L. Bean stores in Freeport (the company’s Home, Outlet, and Bike, Boat & Ski stores respectively have their own buildings), making the area an unofficial L.L. Bean campus, complete with a 16.5-foot tall all-weather Bean boot for a mascot. Don’t forget to take a photo with it on the southwest side of the main building.
Here’s a little trivia – L.L. Bean says that if the boot was a real boot, its size would be 410. That’s pretty big…
Inside the store (there are several levels), signs lead the way to different departments — from Camping, Hunting, and Fishing to Pet Supplies, Kids, Apparel, and entire walls dedicated to boots and slippers.
Love L.L. Bean’s signature totes? They’ve got ‘em here in every color (not just red). Need some rain boots? No problem.
How about a polka dot bathing suit or some snuggly slippers? Ayuh.
Or maybe a sleeping bag? How about a Magum Honker (“offers deeper and goosier tones”) for your next goose hunting trip? Sure thing.
Camo “big game hunting” bib overalls and a retro-inspired Coleman cooler? You can get those here.
Fancy a new fishing rod or sturdy carrying case? Maybe a cheery red knit cardigan? Yup.
While L.L. Bean is especially known for its outerwear and comfortable, casual sportswear, my favorite section (besides the totes — I am a sucker for the medium, long-handled, no-zip totes) is actually the L.L. Bean Signature Collection — a line launched in 2010 featuring updated prints, modern lines, and a more tailored fit.
While you’re shopping, watch out for the indoor trout pond (but keep your pennies in your pockets — those fish inside are real!).
And if you’re not shopping for clothes or gear, there’s still plenty to peruse in the souvenir and gift displays throughout the store. Here they’ve made good use of a canoe to house a trove of wares.
Scented balsam pillows (there are lobster ones with “Maine” on them, too), iced Bean Boot cookies, pure maple syrup, lobster pots, L.L. Bean editions of Monopoly, cookbooks, gummy lobsters…the list goes on and on, proving that at L.L. Bean, there really is something for everyone.
Even those with no money to spend won’t leave the store with nothing. Taxidermied animals are positioned throughout the store for your educational entertainment.
Mounted on walls…
Positioned in thoughtful groups…
And in the case of The Locked Moose of New Sweden, Maine, magnificently on display.
One of only two like it in North America, “The Final Charge” depicts two Bull Moose in battle, their antlers locked. As the accompanying sign explains, the antlers were found on the property of a New Sweden resident in 2006, still locked together from the previous fall when the pair had perished. The resident donated them to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, still locked together, which then contacted L.L. Bean with the idea of re-imagining and displaying the “final battle” at the store. It’s truly something to see, and I’m only sorry that I couldn’t get a better photo – the display has a window on the other side for folks looking in from the outside, and the sunlight coming in made it hard to photograph. You’ll just have to see it in person!
If fish are your thing, in addition to the enormous Fishing department, you’ll want to check out the 3,500-gallon, 24-foot long Riverbed Aquarium near the main entrance, where rainbow, brown and brook trout and landlocked salmon swim by in muted, yet still brilliant, color. All of the fish come from Maine state hatcheries approved by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Examples of Bean’s century of history are also on display throughout the store, making it feel at times like a mini-museum. The company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 and is rightly proud of its longstanding role in encouraging us to enjoy the many facets of the great outdoors.
And if you’re really pooped and need a coffee, snack, or even a meal (like I did), the in-store 1912 Cafe is at your service. The Mediterranean Salad and root beer from Captain Eli’s Natural Maine Soda were just the thing to fuel me for the second leg of my journey home to Manchester, NH.
In fact, sitting and relaxing is something they encourage in a few other spots while you flip through a guidebook or two. That is…if you don’t mind a little moose supervision.
And finally, if you like some fresh air with your sitting, there are free horse-drawn wagon rides outside.
This is only some of what you’ll see at the Freeport store. What did I miss? What L.L. Bean item is your all-time favorite?