Sunday, August 7, 2016

Brick and Mortar: LL Bean Flagship

Sometimes something lives up to the insane amount of hype that goes with it.  Chris Nolan's Batman Trilogy (especially the Dark Knight Rises...amazing), the 2016 Chicago Cubs (oh, was that premature?  I hope not...I am really rooting for Theo's second team), and the LL Bean Flagship store in Freeport Maine.

Over the years my feelings about LL Bean gear have undergone an evolution.  At first, I was thrilled that they made good stuff for cheap.  Then, having been introduced to TAD and the like, I found their "Dad Gear" approach to outdoor stuff a bit boring.  But now, actually being a Dad, I again appreciate the fact that they make good stuff that is affordable.  Over the years I have had a slew of LL Bean stuff and I have never been disappointed in it.  In particular, I really like my LL Bean Hiking Boots and my LL Bean Pathfinder Softshell Hoodie.  That hoodie is really great, like 90% of the performance of my TAD Stealth at 33% price with a whole lot less complicated pockets and zippers.  That hoodie has come to signify LL Bean in my mind--a bit staid but a reliable over performer and great value.  There are some stinkers, but their entire line is generally pretty darn good.

When I moved to New England and heard whispers of the awesome never-closed LL Bean Flagship store I was intrigued.  As my obsession with gear deepened, I knew I had to go.  My family vacations in Maine every summer and so we make a stop on the way at the Flagship store in Freeport.  It is a paradise.  My sons love the taxidermied animals and giant fish tank.  I delight in seeing in person a lot of the gear I own "browse" online.  The first half hour is spent with me picking up random things like a slow mo version of Supermarket Sweep.  This year I ended up with a flashlight, a portable charger/flashlight, some Astronaut Ice Cream, and a Swiss Army Knife.  Also of note--the awesome moose battle.  If you go, you'll know what I mean.  

There are five stores at the "campus," the main store, the hunting store (which is attached to the main store), the bikes and boats store, and an outlet.  In the middle there is a concert stage and around the town there are bunch of places to eat.  Freeport is also home to Thomas Moser, one of my favorite furniture makers, and Chiltons, a budget version of Moser.  There are a couple of decent restaurants, a knife store called Casco Bay Cutlery, which will get its own Brick and Mortar eventually, and plenty of places for non-knife folks to go shopping.  It is worth the trip and a ton of fun.  

Plus, if you don't like the stuff or it breaks, even 40 years from now, you can take it back.  


  1. While the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, as a whole, was great, I disagree that Dark Knight Rises was the best. In my opinion, that was the worst of the three. Sort of like Quantum of Solace in the Daniel Craig James Bond movies. That said, I like these brick and mortar posts.

  2. I love Freeport. Have gone once or twice a year since '92 as a fun side trip from visiting family in Portland. I still have and use LL Bean gear that I was given in '88, such as their once made-in-Maine camp mocs. Patagonia is my other favorite store there.

  3. Thanks for the Chilton tip, btw. I hadn't heard of them. A cousin worked for Thos Moser. Gorgeous stuff, but out of my reach. Maybe someday.

  4. Recently heard an awesome piece on LL Bean's satisfaction guarantee (known simply as "The Guarantee" by its employees) on This American Life. What a fascinating social experiment!

    Highly recommended!

    1. This is also the first thing I thought of when I read this post. Pretty interesting and I had no idea LL Bean had this policy.