Oh, Vermonters! Round up your L.L. Bean boyfriends, your canvas tote bags, your Sunday-best flannel, and mark your calendars for October. L.L. Bean is bringing a little bit of Maine to our very own Green Mountain State.
The outdoor retailer announced today plans to open an 18,290-square-foot, two-level store this fall in the Burlington Town Center, the city's downtown shopping mall. L.L. Bean estimated it will employ 100 people at the store — the brand's 20th retail outlet outside Maine, and its first in Vermont.
“Our stores are where the L.L.Bean catalogs come to life for our customers,” said Ken Kacere, senior vice-president and general manager of retail at L.L.Bean, in the announcement.
Among the reasons cited for opening a store in Burlington? The large number of catalog and web customers in the area. (Surprise, surprise.) L.L. Bean intends to stage demos, clinics, and hands-on classes at the store. "Outdoor Discovery Schools" run at every L.L. Bean location and more than 100,000 people participated last year. The store will occupy two stories of the mall, with entrances from both the interior of the shopping mall and from Cherry Street.
Bagging Bean is a coup for the Burlington Town Center, which changed hands last year when N.Y.-based Devonwood Investors and Mountain Development Corp. of New Jersey partnered to purchase the property for $25 million. The mall had languished on the market — at a higher asking price — for years. New co-owner Don Sinex told the Burlington Free Press's Dan D'Ambrosioin December that he has big plans for rebranding and refurbishing the property:
Turning to accessibility and visibility on Cherry Street and Bank Street, Sinex envisions storefronts that will draw shoppers like bees to honey.
“If it were a clothing store, it could be H&M,” he said. “If it were an all-purpose outdoor store, L.L. Bean. A cosmetics store could be Sephora; a department store could be Target. Now the mall access comes four different ways: Church Street, Cherry Street, Bank Street and through Macy’s.”
"Obviously we’re very excited to welcome L.L. Bean as a new anchor tenant," said Burlington Town Center's marketing director Erika Constantine. "This is part of our strategic plan to redevelop the mall as a premier shopping destination," Constantine said, adding that the street-level entrance fits in with long-term plans in Burlington revitalize the Cherry Street corridor.
"This is really a demonstration of our new ownership team and their commitment to bringing new brands into the community and enhancing the downtown shopping experience," said Constantine.
Meanwhile, at the homegrown Outdoor Gear Exchange, co-owner Mike Donohue said that "time will tell" how L.L. Bean will affect the shop, located on Church Street. The competition might mean lower sales, he said, but also could draw more shoppers downtown. (After all, a shopper might need a pair of Darn Tough socks to go with a new pair of the iconic Bean boots.)
"Vermonters in general seem to support local, and to like local businesses," he said. "I feel pretty confident in our base."
Kathryn Flagg is a Seven Days staff writer. She completed a fellowship in environmental journalism at Middlebury College, and her work has also appeared in the Addison County Independent, Wyoming Public Radio and Orion Magazine. She lives in Shoreham with her husband and son.