Now and then, I like to revisit a past project and see how it’s doing. Sometimes when you create a building, you spend so much time with it that you grow attached to it and almost think of it as a family member. The L.L.Bean Hunting and Fishing Store in Freeport, Maine is one of those projects. I remember working hard not only to create great retail space but also on the little things, like shelves, nooks, and other special places for the taxidermy displays and heritage pieces like original rifles used by L.L. Bean himself.
Every square inch of the store has something interesting to look at. There’s lots of great stuff to buy, whether it’s a fly rod, mosquito-repellent hat, bird-call, tree-stands, arrows, or warm fleeces. But I also love to look around at the other treasures – the architectural ones: the railings made of milled logs; the iron inset panels with outdoor scenes of fisherman, wading moose, or swimming ducks; the 40-foot aquarium with its special bubble port that if you make an effort to crawl to it, you’ll be rewarded with an eye-to-eye view of a brook trout. The fully-enclosed archery range, where you can learn how to use a bow and arrow or try out equipment before making a purchase. The mezzanine between the two main floors that has very little for sale, and instead was furnished with soft seating, a huge fireplace, and a wonderful sense of relaxation… like a Maine hunting lodge.
The store’s ceiling soars high above, but the store always feels intimate. It may be the friendly staff, but I think it’s also the layout and the vignettes that give the whole place a calm vibe. When we designed the store, we set aside space for a coffee bar or sandwich shop, not knowing which it would be or who would run it. Some months after the Hunting and Fishing store opened, we worked with a local restaurateur to create the 1912 Cafe, named after the year L.L. Bean sold his first pairs of hunting boots. It’s a nice spot to take a break from shopping in Freeport, and while you eat your sandwich, you can peruse a wall full of hunting and fishing heritage spanning the last 100 years of L.L.Bean history.
We and the L.L.Bean project team built the Hunting & Fishing store in 2007. Just over five years later, I look back fondly at that time. Seeing the store again, I’m proud of the work we did.