Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Shoe That Put Freeport on the Map

Some words are just synonymous with Maine…like lobster and blueberries. Another name that is synonymous is L.L. Bean - the authentically Maine outdoor outfitter that put a small town name Freeport on the map. We never miss the opportunity to visit L.L. Bean when we are in Maine. This time we decided to spend three days in Freeport, after all, L.L. Bean is not just a store it is a campus. L.L. Bean has been able to survive for nearly 100 years on the founding principles of providing a quality product at a fair price with a 100% guarantee of satisfaction.

So how does a small business in a tiny town in the far corner of the U.S. grow into an outdoor outfitter empire? A shoe! That is right; L.L. Bean’s success is based on the “Maine Hunting Shoe.” Leon Leonwood (L.L.) Bean returned from a hunting trip in the Maine wilderness with cold, damp feet and came up with the idea to design a shoe with rubber soles and leather uppers that was waterproof and comfortable. He worked with a cobbler to produce his design and began selling the shoe by mail in 1912. The shoe retailed for $3.50 and came with a money-back guarantee. But things did not go well at first. Of the 100 pairs of shoes purchased, 90 were returned due to faulty stitching. Good to his word, the shoes were fixed, customers were satisfied, and his reputation was established. L.L. Bean’s initial business principles of fair pricing and money-back guarantee became company policy and are credited with success of the business.

Today, L.L. Bean is much more than hunting shoes and chamois shirts. L.L. Bean has branched into all areas of the outdoor market and has opened stores across the country and world (including 9 stores in Japan). Multiple catalogs are produced that reflect the company’s diverse products which include hunting, fishing, camping, biking, skiing, and home furnishing. L.L. Bean recognized its customers interest in educational and instructional programs and launched the Outdoor Discovery. Short classes in fly fishing, kayaking, archery, and shooting are offered at the store. More advanced multi-day classes and guided trips are also offered. The need to update products, yet maintain signature items and styles, has been achieved by L.L. Bean throughout the company’s history. In 2010, the company launched L.L. Bean Signature - a line of clothing that has an updated fit and style representing a modern interpretation of the classics.

While in Freeport, we decided to take advantage of all that L.L. Bean was offering. It just happened to be “Paddle Sports Weekend” when we were there. The company offered free kayak, canoe, and paddle boat demonstrations at their off-site location on the shores of Casco Bay. A free shuttle delivered interested shoppers to a location so beautiful that it made you want to buy anything relating to water sports. There was a band, free food, and numerous non-water sport activities. Since we already have kayaks, we were content to eat and enjoy the breath-taking view. The water below was dotted with people paddling all sorts of colorful boats.
The hardest decision about purchasing a kayak is deciding on the color.
While enjoying our free lunch this was the view overlooking Casco Bay.  Boaters
dot the beautiful blue water.
Still wanting to take advantage of L.L. Beans programs, I spent an hour learning the techniques of fly casting through the Outdoor Discovery School. It had been a few years since I was fly fishing in Montana so I wanted to brush up on my technique. Nobody else signed up for the course so I had a private lesson. The mental image of casting a fly line in a cool mountain stream in the Maine wilderness with not a soul around was appealing to me. My lesson certainly peaked my interest in the sport again. But, just as I was pulling out my credit card to outfit my new hobby, Betsy mentioned lunch and I got distracted. For now the rod, reel, flies, waders, cool looking vest, and landing net will have to wait. Lunch sure was a lot cheaper! But, not to worry, fly fishing is in my future.

There is just something about being in the store that makes you want to buy their products and the fact that the store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a week allows you to do that. 

Below are pictures from within the L.L. Bean Flagship Store. 

These two bull moose got their antlers tangled during a fight and never could get them loose.
They died with their antlers locked together.  After a women found the locked antlers, this mount was created.
More of the collection.
The mini aquarium in the store that displays big fish which stems your desire to go buy
fishing gear. Great marketing!
Trout stream in the store.
The famous boots.
These old boots are probably enclosed in a glass case due to the smell if they are in the same
condition as mine.  Walking in the Louisiana swamp for 10 years really did  a number on mine.


  1. An OUTSTANDING post! Loved the picture of the boot. Both my wife and I have had our LL Bean boots and Chamois shirts longer than either of us care to admit, they make great products.


  2. You always were more coordinated then me, but I advise to practice on the bank with fly fishing first...practice alot! I seem to always be undoing line wind knots when I realize the kayak is way off course. But it is a lot of fun. Also, I use a very short rod..looks like a child's rod. Have to admit I haven't caught enough fish to eat except once and they were bream. Charlotte


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