All you want to know about LL Bean - and more!
Many Mainers will get and give Christmas gifts from L.L.Bean this week. For a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the company and all its players, turn to James Witherell’s exceptionally comprehensive book, L.L. Bean – The Man and His Company.
Published in paperback by Tilbury House of Gardiner in June of 2011, this 533-page tome is the definitive account of the rise of the nation’s favorite outdoor store, including the many stumbles along the way.
Well, ok, maybe that’s a bit of hometown cheerleading, but it’s my favorite outdoor store and maybe yours too. The quality of Bean’s products, and the lifetime guarantee, keep me shopping there, year after year.
Witherell’s book is a must-read for all who agree with me, or anyone else who wants to learn something about the evolution of the nation’s retail and catalog business. Chapter headings alone are fascinating.
Chapter 5: “It’s not just the knife that’s being sold; it’s the honesty, know-how, and practicality of an experienced fisherman that is firmly on display.”
Chapter 9: “Why, it flies in the face of everything L.L. stood for. Quality, dependability, durability. Not fashion.”
Lest you think this is a feel-good only-the-flattering account, think again. This is the entire story – stumbles, internal conflicts, major challenges – presented in detail. Maybe too many details for some, but I enjoyed every bit of it, being somewhat of a Bean fanatic.
This book also serves as a wonderful history of Freeport’s transformation from a sleepy coastal community, where I remember basketball games between my hometown team from Winthrop and the boys from Freeport High School (long gone), to a major shopping destination, most especially for “people from away.”
You don’t have to be from away to enjoy and appreciate this book. So unwrap those LL Bean gifts on Christmas day, and then get out there and pick up a copy of this book, to find out how those gifts came to define our state’s brand and image.