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The most iconic Maine-based store, and a staple outdoors brand throughout the country, L.L. Bean is a titan of industry. But like most businesses, it came from humble roots. The company was founded by and named for Leon Leonwood Bean, an avid hunter.

He hated that whenever he returned from a hunt in a wet or marshy area, his feet were wet. In order to amend this, he created a boot with a leather top, but a rubber lower section and sole, so that his feet would be kept dry and comfortable. Deciding to commercialize the idea, in 1912 he obtained a list of out- of-state hunters and created a card catalog in an attempt to sell them his new boot. Unfortunately, a flaw in the initial design made the tops of Bean’s boots separate from the bottoms, and because he had sold them under a full money back warranty, 90 of the 100 boots he initially sold were returned.

Undeterred, Bean fixed the flaws in the original and sold the improved version, this time with more success. As his business became more successful, he opened a factory in Freeport, and in 1927 they expanded their catalog to include fishing equipment, which Bean insisted on personally testing. The business actually thrived during the Great Depression, reaching $1 million in sales in 1937.

Bean attributed his company’s success to quality products, fair pricing and appealing marketing strategies. In 1951, aged 80, he announced that the main L.L. Bean store would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, a policy that they maintain to this day.

In the 1960s the emergence of competitors threatened the success of L.L. Bean, but when Bean died in 1967 his grandson Leon Gorman took over the company and began to modernize. He did this by expanding their catalog and demographic appeal, and lowering prices. By 1975 the company was again flourishing, with sales reaching $30 million and over 400 employees.

In 1974 they constructed a 110,000-square-foot distribution center, and expanded it to 310,000 square feet in 1979. In 1992 L.L. Bean opened a store in Japan, followed by another in 1993. By 1997 there were 11 L.L. Bean stores operating in Japan.

In 1996 the company opened an online catalog and a 650,000-square-foot fulfillment center. Today L.L. Bean operates in 54 locations, in 18 states as well as Japan, employs nearly 5,000 people and has an annual revenue of over $1.6 billion.

Sources: Funding Universe, L.L. Bean, Wikipedia

Notices

Liberty and Montville residents should register their dogs before Feb. 1st to avoid incurring a late fee of $25 per dog.

The Liberty Library will host cribbage classes on Sundays, Jan. 15 and 22, for those just learning the game, and on Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, 12, 19 and 26 for anyone who wants to play, especially those willing to help novices.