Over 30 guests practice yoga at L.L. Bean’s Discovery Park at a free class on Tuesday morning. John Terhune / The Times Record

As the adage goes, “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” But at L.L. Bean, there’s a whole lot else going on in the Midcoast that is free — or at least close to it.

More than 30 yogis of all skill levels gathered in L.L. Bean’s Discovery Park Tuesday morning for an hourlong yoga session taught by local instructor Sue Henshall. While drop-in classes at local studios regularly cost $15 or more, the five sessions L.L. Bean hosts each week don’t cost anything — just like the slate of movie nights, trivia competitions and concerts that make up the rest of the company’s Summer in the Park programming.

“L.L. Bean’s purpose is to inspire and enable people to experience the restorative power of being outside,” said Experiential Marketing Planner Karen Levesque. “Our goal is to activate our campus every single day of the week.”

L.L. Bean has long brought people together through initiatives like its Outdoor Discovery Programs and free concert series, according to Levesque. But over the past five years, the company has worked to add more, including a speaker series, a weekly kids’ story night and the popular summer yoga classes.

“This is a gift to the community,” said Henshall, who also teaches yoga at two Brunswick studios. “L.L. Bean is so generous with space and time.”

The no-cost offerings extend beyond Freeport. This summer, the company has partnered with three state parks to set-up “L.L. Bean Beach Boxes” packed with chairs, toys, books and other gear visitors can borrow for free.


L.L. Bean’s Reid State Park Beach Box is full of chairs, umbrellas, beach games and more. John Terhune / The Times Record

The three boxes, each made in Nobleboro from 23,000 recycled plastic bottles, are particularly helpful to visitors who might be new to spending time outdoors, according to Bill Yeo, the company’s community engagement coordinator.

“A lot of people that take advantage of these boxes are from out of state,” Yeo said. “Some of them have never been to the beach. They didn’t think of bringing a chair, an umbrella, games for the kids and all that. We’re teaching them how to be outsiders.”

Like many visitors to Reid State Park in Georgetown on Tuesday, Jordan Roberts of New York State was initially skeptical that the box’s supplies were free.

“I thought you’d have to put a card in or something,” he said from beneath an L.L. Bean umbrella. “But it was put in the code and take what you want and return it. It was great.”

Why would a for-profit company give away products and services that it could charge for? According to Erin Percival Carter, an assistant professor of marketing at Maine Business School, businesses like L.L. Bean have a lot to gain by making a positive impression on both existing customers and potential new ones.

“It’s cultivating goodwill with exactly who they want their target customer to be — outdoorsy people in Maine,” Percival Carter said. “Where do outdoorsy people in Maine hang out? State parks. They’re probably doing yoga. If I have goodwill for a brand, it means I’m going to be willing to pay more, or I’m going to think of L.L. Bean first when I’m thinking of buying a flannel shirt or wool socks.”


Colette Storti-Roberts, left, Benny Storti-Roberts and Jordan Roberts enjoy their borrowed L.L. Bean beach chairs and umbrella at Reid State Park on Tuesday, Aug. 16. John Terhune / The Times Record

In that respect, the program seems to be a success, according to Yeo.

“After the day of using these products, people are like, ‘Man, what a great company; I love L.L. Bean!’” he said. “This program has done a really great job building that brand affinity.”

To economists, that might be proof that L.L. Bean’s summer offerings aren’t truly free. But for Pownal resident and L.L. Bean yoga regular Jessica Theberge, that’s beside the point.

“Whether or not they’re trying to make a profit, they’re bringing people together,” she said. “They’re bringing community together.”

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