The iconic outdoor retailer from Maine has opened its 21st retail location. We were there in Bloomington, Minn., last night at the temple to retail that is the Mall Of America, where L.L.Bean cut a proverbial ribbon to christen a 29,000-square-foot space.
The store gave a $15,000 check to Minneapolis Parks as a gesture toward the community. “We see Minnesota and Maine as something like long-lost brothers,” said Greg Elder, a Minnesota native and the company’s Vice President of Retail Stores.
The company stated Minnesota was selected for its “strong love of the outdoors and its active community.” Elder noted the Minnesota store opening is part of a nationwide expansion. Next week the company debuts a location in Colorado, its second west-of-the-Mississippi storefront.
At the Mall Of America, the new store was stocked with L.L.Bean-branded outerwear, apparel, and footwear, as well as name-brand outdoor gear like Thule car-top boxes, sleds, snowshoes, walkie-talkies, fly-fishing gear, and kayaks.
In addition to gear sales, L.L.Bean will run its Outdoor Discovery Schools program out of the Minnesota branch. This free or low-cost program offers demonstrations and clinics throughout the year on a range of outdoor sports and activities.
I hung out with Seth Wescott, a two-time Olympic champion snowboarder and a design partner with L.L.Bean. He was on site to talk about the company’s Traverse line, a product spread Wescott helped build for a younger demographic of L.L.Bean customers.
The line has technical snowsports outerwear to lifestyle pieces, including pants, vests, and even deerskin gloves. Gore-Tex, Polartec, Primaloft, and other branded materials are used on high-end performance products that round out the Traverse line.
Wescott modeled a few of his favorite jackets and talked about next year’s product line. He said the company will get even more snowsports-specific and that Gore-Tex is currently creating a proprietary fabric just for L.L.Bean.
“It’s my third year with the brand and I am stoked for the 15/16 line,” he said.
In the mean time, L.L.Bean will continue to sell loads of flannel shirts and its iconic Bean Boots.
Greg Elder noted that the made-in-Maine boots would soon be out of stock — “They are popular, so buy them now when you can,” he told an audience at the opening event.
I wandered outside after the event, the winter winds already howling in Minnesota, mixing with exhaust fumes of cars lined up to leave the mall.
I pulled on my hood and darted into a parking ramp, a technical jacket made for the mountains protecting from the elements even there, in Bloomington, Minn., in a very urban place.