Feb. 5, 1967: Outdoorsman and Greenwood native Leon Leonwood Bean, 94, dies in Pompano Beach, Florida, 55 years after founding the iconic global company that bears his name.

L.L. Bean opened in Freeport selling a single product – the Bean Boot, or Maine Hunting Shoe. Of the first 100 pairs sold, customers returned 90 because the soles separated from the body. Bean refunded their money, corrected the design problem and continued selling the boots, which remain one of its signature products.

The founder’s grandson Leon A. Gorman (1934-2015) is appointed company president upon his grandfather’s death. The Bowdoin College graduate and U.S. Navy veteran leads a transformation of the $2.25 million company of about 100 workers into what by 2018 is an enterprise that generates about $1.6 billion in net sales and employs about 5,200 year-round workers and about 3,700 seasonal ones.

Gorman and his wife, Lisa, both outdoors enthusiasts, also support efforts to protect the St. John River basin, the 100-mile Wilderness and Katahdin Lake; and help fund a wide variety of youth organizations and cultural institutions.

Now one of Maine’s most successful companies, L.L. Bean, led by Board Chairman Shawn Gorman – nephew of Leon Gorman and great-grandson of the company’s founder – and President and CEO Steve Smith, operates a flagship store in Freeport that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It also operates dozens of stores elsewhere in the United States, as well as in Canada, China and Japan; and a brisk online sales operation.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: jowen@mainetoday.com.


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