Even the Mall of America closes its doors each evening. But in Freeport, the mighty, iconic L.L. Bean has no locks. In fact since 1951 there have only been three instances when the sports retailer closed its doors: when JFK was shot, store founder Leon Lenwood Bean died and when Maine’s Blue Laws came into effect.
For 63 years, the store has been open like a 24 hour diner, ready to serve. Why keep the lights on and pay employees around the clock? If a hunter blew out a boot at 4 a.m., needed more ammo or forgot thermal liners, Leon wanted to be the go-to resource — the place a hunter could count on to pursue the big buck.
“We have thrown away the keys to the place,” L.L. proclaimed the year he decided to go 365 days, 24/7.
The always-open policy has attracted outdoorsmen, tourists and college students seeking gear, boots and a killer flannel in the wee hours. With a round-the-clock schedule, one can’t help but wonder if in the run-up to the holidays this place is teeming with shoppers morning, noon and night?
What happens inside Maine’s renowned retailer when most people are sleeping is something that I’ve long wondered about. Is the archery department populated by insomniacs trying out the latest in bow tech moments before the dawn? Does someone wake up in the middle of the night itching for a chamois shirt?
Some reporters want to be embedded in the Middle East. My dream is to report from the floor of this historic supplier, where the myth and magic of Maine radiates. Among the paneled walls, gleaming fishtanks and wildlife tableaux, I will be setting up camp, sleeping in a tent and hoping those stuffed bears stay stuffed.
Follow me from Thursday, Dec. 11 at noon to Friday, Dec. 12 at noon. I’ll be live-blogging every hour, live-tweeting and chronicling my experience in photos and on Instagram. Follow #24Bean on social media and watch here for updates. It’s going to be fun.