FREEPORT — Gordon French of Meredith, New Hampshire, is a big fan of L.L. Bean.

Every month he and his wife travel to the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport for several nights and a shopping spree at his favorite store. When the company celebrated its 100th anniversary a few years ago, he bought one of every single L.L. Bean commemorative product available, except for the canoe and the gun.

So there was no way French was going to miss the closing of the flagship store for four hours Sunday morning in memory of Leon A. Gorman, the longtime president and chairman of the board who died Sept. 3 at age 80.

“I am here to see it shut down,” French said.

It was only the third voluntary closure since the store started staying open around the clock in 1951, although before that, customers passing through could always ring the bell to be let in by a watchman, or company founder Leon Leonwood Bean himself.

The store closed in 1967 to mark Bean’s death, and in 1963 after the death of President John F. Kennedy. The store also was forced to close a few times on Sundays in the 1960s because of the state’s blue laws, and for a fire across the street. L.L. Bean’s other stores in Freeport also were closed for four hours Sunday.


At the flagship store around 8 a.m., a small group of townspeople, employees and shoppers watched the closing of the doors, which have no locks. Employees draped symbolic ropes over the handles as the chimes of the store’s gravity-powered clock played inside to a missing audience.

The closing allowed many of the company’s 5,200 employees to take a few hours to remember Gorman at a funeral service at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center and at live broadcasts at remote locations.

A kiosk was set up outside the flagship store to serve hot coffee to shoppers waiting for the store to reopen.

Gorman, L.L. Bean’s grandson, took over the company in 1967 and grew the store from a $5 million-a-year regional brand to an international retail powerhouse with sales of $1.6 billion annually. He was a major philanthropist and held in high regard by his employees.

Shortly before the doors closed Sunday, Judy Mosier of Yarmouth slipped inside to leave a bouquet of flowers at a desk where visitors could sign a memorial book or leave cards in a signature L.L. Bean canvas tote bag.

“He was my boss for 27 years. He was a nice man. He was shy, he was quiet but he spoke volumes,” Mosier said.


Memorial books were posted at L.L. Bean locations in Freeport, and by Sunday morning they were filled with condolences.

One well-wisher wrote: “Traditions continuing are hard to find. Our blessings to the entire Bean family and our fervent hope the traditions continue.” The Fagan family of Sanford wrote: “He left his mark on the world.”

The store was almost empty of shoppers as the 8 a.m. closing approached. Employees remarked on how eerily quiet the usually bustling aisles had become. Outside the store, visitors huddled under umbrellas in the rain and talked about Gorman’s passing.

Freeport native Laurie Collard said she had been coming to the store since she was a little girl in the 1950s when it was a single showroom with one set of entrance stairs. “I come here out of respect. I also feel like it is history,” Collard said.

Writer Jim Witherell of Lewiston, author of “L.L. Bean: The Man and his Company,” a biography published in 2001, said he couldn’t stay away from the closing. Witherell said he wondered whether there would be any leader in the future who would have as big an impact on the company as Gorman and merit a similar store closing.

“It’s a pilgrimage for me. This is never going to happen again,” he said.

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