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Maine outlet shopping

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Did You Know … ?

  • Grammar school dropout Chester Greenwood of Farmington invented earmuffs at age 15 (1873).
  • The L.L. Bean flagship store, open 24/7, has no locks on the doors.
  • A Freeport business, Sea Bags, has kept more than 500 tons of sails out of landfills in 15 years.
  • The original Kittery Trading Post really traded — fur pelts for gas, beef for ammunition and supplies for a car.
  • ecause of a flaw, 90 of L.L. Bean’s first 100 Bean boots were returned for refunds.

Where shopping is a sport

Leon Leonwood Bean founded his namesake store, L.L. Bean, in 1912 to sell a moccasin-like hunting shoe of his own devising, now called the Bean boot. The Freeport-based business, with its well-known emphasis on customer satisfaction, grew from a one-man operation to a global organization with annual sales of $1.61 billion. The business concentrates on quality apparel and gear needed to pursue outdoor activities.

Down the road, one Philip (Bing) Adams purchased the Kittery Trading Post in 1938 and began its transformation from a one-room trading post and gas station to a outdoor specialty sports operation doing business in 90,000 square feet of retail space.

It would seem Bean and Adams started something. The two towns on the Maine coast have morphed into major outlet shopping centers. According to the Maine Office of Tourism, Freeport has 120 upscale factory outlets, and Kittery has more than 120 factory and retail outlets. Kittery’s outlets include a subset called Kittery Premium Outlets counting more than 60 stores.

Shops beget shops, and, while outlets may trigger the urge to shop, visitors aren’t limited to the outlet option. Freeport and Kittery have plenty of additional stores including, of course, the long-established L.L. Bean and Kittery Trading Post, both still family-owned businesses.

Shopaholics also aren’t limited to Freeport and Kittery and don’t have to travel far for new venues. For one thing, there is the so-called antiques trail, meaning a 30-mile stretch of U.S. Route 1, from York through Ogunquit, Wells and Kennebunkport to Arundel. This is the area with Maine’s largest concentration of antiques shops.

The other big thing that defines a shopping trip to Maine is buying Maine-made products (in addition to the Bean boots). Quality items, made by hand, may include baskets and textiles, or tourmaline jewelry created by Maine jewelers from gems unearthed in the state’s western mountains.

After which, it makes sense to finish a shopping day with other Maine products, meaning a meal of lobster or a relaxing break over a locally brewed craft beer.

Things to do for Venturers

  • At Freeport, give the plastic a rest while hiking the coastal trails at Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park.
  • Sign on for one of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools’ programs, such as canoeing or clay shooting.
  • Buy the essentials at Maine’s outlet stores and L.L. Bean just as you head to the slopes or the sea.
  • Attend a free hunter safety course offered by Kittery Trading Post. Sessions vary, with focuses on firearms, crossbows and standard bows and arrows.
  • This isn’t shopping, this is investing: Hit the antiques trail, meaning a 30-mile stretch of U.S. Route 1, from York to Arundel.
  • Swing by Portland for your nightlife and drop in at the state’s largest shopping mall, the Maine Mall, with more than 140 stores and restaurants.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Take advantage of the occasion when stores are collecting lightly used business attire to make available to the needy. Call it unshopping, or just clearing closet space for the new stuff.
  • Shoehorn in an excursion to discover the so-called Desert of Maine, the result of overfarming a piece of land outside Freeport.
  • Purchase a bag made from recycled sails at Sea Bags in Freeport.
  • Take a how-to class offered by L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Schools. Sample classes include a clinic on footwear for running on trails and an archery equipment showcase. Many classes are free.
  • Book a shopping weekend package, which includes a hotel and bunches of store coupons.
  • Eat Maine lobster, a must-do regardless of the reason for visiting the state.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Tour the chocolate factory at Freeport’s Wilbur’s Candy Shoppe.
  • Make time to enjoy Kittery’s historic architecture and general ambience, and discover its beaches. The town is Maine’s oldest settlement, dating from 1623.
  • Hear music during the L.L. Bean Summer in the Park series of free concerts.
  • Before setting out, go to the Web to find and print the discount coupons many malls or shops offer.
  • Take a break at the Freeport Village Station outlet mall to see a movie on site.
  • When it comes to souvenirs, look for Maine-made products.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Maine Office of Tourism at www.visitmaine.com