For more than 100 years, this family-owned company has been sharing its passion for the great outdoors.
It takes a rugged boot to withstand the wet bogs when moose hunting in Maine — something avid hunter Leon Leonwood Bean learned the hard way after trying out different pairs of boots and getting his feet soaked each time. Tired of cold, wet feet, Bean paid a local cobbler to make a special boot that attached a leather ankle support onto the hard rubber bottoms of galoshes. And with that one product, Bean — “L.L.” to everyone who knew him — set up shop in his brother’s basement and L.L. Bean was born.
That was in 1912. Now, more than 110 years later, the boot is a staple at L.L. Bean and one of the most enduring products in American retailing. Headquartered in Freeport, Maine, where it was founded, this outdoor goods company remains a family-owned brand, something its founder — who was orphaned at age 12 — would be proud of.
When Bean died in 1967 at the age of 94, his grandson Leon Gorman took the helm, transforming the company into the globally recognized outdoor brand it is today. Under his watch, L.L. Bean became a leader in outstanding customer service and one of Maine’s top private employers. In 1980, after “The Official Preppy Handbook” called L.L. Bean “nothing less than a prep mecca” and its Norwegian sweater “the nearest thing to a prep membership card,” L.L. Bean’s catalog and retail store sales soared, surpassing $300 million in 1985.
In his memoir, “L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon,” Gorman wrote: “My proudest accomplishment is growing my grandfather’s company from employing less than 100 people in 1960 to employing tens of thousands of good Maine people over the generations; building a company based on solid Maine values of integrity, customer service, respect for people, a love of the outdoors, and above all, perseverance.”
Sell practical, tested merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings — and they will always come back.”
LeonLeonwood Bean,L.L. Bean founder
In 1979, after hosting an outdoor winter clinic in Freeport, L.L. Bean expanded its outdoor discovery programs to support the outdoor interests of its customers. Today, the retailer offers dozens of courses, tours, and adventures that cater to all skill levels and abilities — including archery, biking, bird-watching, fly-fishing, hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and more.
An enthusiasm for the shared joy of the outdoors remains a constant for this iconic outdoor industry brand. “We believe the more time you spend outside together, the better,” L.L. Bean says on its website. “That’s why we design products that make it easier to take longer walks, have deeper talks, and never worry about the weather. It’s like our founder always said — being outside brings out the best in us.”