Down East 2013 ©
If there’s one thing that made me a life-long advocate for and customer of LL Bean, it’s the company’s guarantee for everything they sell. If I don’t like it, for any reason, at any time, Bean takes it back. No receipt required.
So it’s fitting that a new book chronicling LL Bean’s history is titled Guaranteed to Last, LL Bean’s Century of Outfitting America. And with a bit of irony, the book is authored by James Gorman, no relation to my good friend Jim Gorman, Jr., LL Bean’s great grandson. The book was produced by Melcher Media for LL Bean and the company’s 100th anniversary.
There’s a lot of good writing here, and quite a bit of interesting history, as the Bean story unfolds over the past century. But I hardly noticed all of that - because the photos and illustrations are entrancing, telling the story so much more effectively.
Here on page 8 is the horse-drawn wagon of the 1902 LL Bean Brother’s Auburn pant store. On the opposite page is a color photo of a very young LL modeling his first Maine Safety Hunting Coat in 1917, shotgun in hand.
And wait until you see LL, his wife and son-in-law, from the 1946 spring catalog, with an astonishing haul of fish – caught during a fishing trip to Canada. Haven’t seen Bean promoting fishing in Canada in a while!
Customer’s letters throughout the book are hilarious, touching, illuminating. Linda and I laughed together as I read her the conversations that Bean telephone representatives recalled.
Rep: “Hello, LL Bean, can I help you?”
Customer (an elderly woman): “Ella Bean, again! I get you every time I call!”
Then there is this story, as presented by the author. While serving as a sales rep in the retail store in the early 1980s, Ed Dwyer sold a camping stove to a woman who was going to Ireland… “She had no sooner left the store than I realized she could have difficulty locating the proper fuel in Ireland,” said Dwyer.
“I was concerned about this and went to the cashier and found that she had paid with a check that listed a town in Vermont as the only address. The next day, with a more appropriate backpacking stove in hand (it was my day off, Sunday), I drove to the small town in Vermont, went to the general store, and was given directions to the customer’s house.
“I found the woman, exchanged stoves, and instructed her in how to use it. It was a beautiful Sunday trek for me – and the postcards I received from Ireland confirmed the fact that L.L. Bean had another satisfied customer.”
Indeed. I have never asked a Bean store employee to personally deliver anything to my Mount Vernon home, but I don’t doubt that they would. I do know for sure that if you order this book and charge it to your LL Bean credit card, they will deliver it for free – and guarantee that you’ll like it!