L.L. Beaners Enter The Promised Land

Thomas Breen photoGordon Daniell entered the new L.L. Bean store that opened on Elm Street Wednesday already wearing L.L. Bean-brand khakis, shoes, and a sun-blocking hiking shirt.

He left the store with a new daypack and water bottle — and with the comfort that he’ll no longer have to leave town or shop online to pick up clothes from his favorite outerwear brand.

Daniell was one of hundreds of devotees to visit the new L.L. Bean store at 272 Elm St. on Wednesday during the store’s “soft opening.” The official grand opening is Friday.

The two-story, glass-fronted hiking and active wear store replaces a former surface parking lot in the Yale Properties-dominated Broadway-Elm Street commercial district, and sits beneath four stories of new Yale graduate student housing.

On Wednesday morning and afternoon, some two dozen enthusiastic store employees wearing earth-green collared shirts walked customers through the 9,000-square-foot retail space and its wealth of hiking shirts and pants, climbing gear, chairs, headlamps, watches, sleeping bags, and hiking boots.

Daniell, who moved to New Haven 72 years ago at the age of 6, used to run the now-closed Jackson-Marvin Hardware store on Whalley Avenue He said he has been shopping L.L. Bean stores for decades.

“They’ve got their own brands, and they stand behind them,” he said. “Consistent good quality.”

He said he doesn’t hike as frequently as he used to, but he is still a regular on the trails of East Rock Park. He picked up the new daypack and waterbottle, but said the store didn’t have the walking shoes he was interested in, so he’d have to look elsewhere.

Lisa Orlando Parisi and Michael Parisi, who have been shopping at L.L. Bean since the early 1970s, said they were glad to have a store in town so that they could try on clothes before buying them and not have to worry about ordering clothes online only to find that they don’t quite fit.

“This is perfectly-fitted for the student population,” Michael Parisi said.

“I was hoping for a bit more,” Lisa Orlando Parisi admitted. “This is definitely geared for casual.” She said she would still need to go to the larger L.L. Bean store in South Windsor to pick up some of the more specialized hiking clothing and equipment that she turns to the shop for.

Eric Smith, a spokesman for L.L. Bean, said that the New Haven store indeed has a more curated collection than some of the retailer’s larger outlets elsewhere in the state.

He said New Haven’s store is much smaller than that in South Windsor. After a new location that the Maine-based retailer opened in South Street Seaport in Boston earlier this year, the Elm Street store is only the second urban location for L.L. Bean. He said the store’s collection of active wear, hiking gear, and casual clothing is geared to both students and city residents interested in exploring the natural environs outside of New Haven.

Store manager Susan Gardella said New Haven’s L.L. Bean will hold free clinics twice a week on topics ranging from how to pack a hiking bag to how to tie a paracord bracelet. She said store employees will also regularly lead hikes from the store to nearby hiking trails.

But for many who came in and out of the store on Wednesday, the drawbacks of having a slightly smaller selection compared to that at other L.L. Bean stores paled in comparison to having a new clothing retailer downtown.

“It beats going way out to Milford,” said Reggie Green, who recently moved to New Haven from Birmingham, Alabama.

“I’ve been shopping here for 40 years,” said a man from Madison who asked not to be identified. “Half my wardrobe comes from L.L. Bean.”

One visitor who left a little disappointed on Wednesday was Estena Wright, a Jamaican transplant to New Haven, who was unable to find exactly what she was looking for.

“It’s lovely,” she said, “but I’m looking for church clothes.” She said she had already been to a number of clothing stores in the area looking for a dress or a suit to wear to her church, Church of Christ on Gem Street, but had left stymied each time by the more casual fare.

“We can’t leave out God,” she said with a smile.

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posted by: BevHills730 on August 1, 2018  3:54pm

Isn’t LL Bean a major Trump supporter?

posted by: 1644 on August 1, 2018  4:23pm

BevHills: No, it isn’t.  One member of the family, Linda, was a big Trump supporter, but the company has no position. Overall, the family, like Maine, runs to gamut of political views.
https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/trump-l-l-bean-and-the-peculiar-politics-of-maine

posted by: NHPLEB on August 1, 2018  4:23pm

Dear BevHills,  SO WHAT?!?!

The important thing is that Yalies and suburbanites have someplace trendy and expensive to shop at rather than the nasty locally-owned small businesses.  It’s the world according to Yale.  NH is the puppet on the string.  Yale’s wish is our command

posted by: 1644 on August 1, 2018  4:33pm

Interesting about the “soft” opening.  Invitations were sent to regular customers, with 20% off today & Thursday for LL Bean credit card users.

posted by: mcg2000 on August 1, 2018  4:42pm

Looking forward to checking out the new store. Ms. Wright may have luck at the Talbot’s Clearance Center In Orange for reasonably priced Church clothes. It’s on the bus route and in the same plaza as the L.L. Bean outlet.

posted by: 1644 on August 1, 2018  5:07pm

NHPLEB:  Bean not trendy or expensive.  It’s preppie, offering timeless, classic clothes by mail to teenage boys who are indifferent to fashion, stuck on a woodsy campus, and need clothes sturdy enough for commercial washers .  Prices are mid-range, higher than Wal-Mart, but lower than Gant or Press.  For women wanting more style, go to Wisdom or Ann Taylor.  Men can go to Enson’s.

posted by: AliceB on August 1, 2018  5:09pm

L.L. Bean is not expensive.  It is affordable and has great quality. This store is a great addition to downtown.

posted by: mcg2000 on August 1, 2018  6:05pm

Ann Taylor is pretty expensive. I still don’t understand why The Loft (Ann Taylor’s discount store) closed down on Chapel Street while the more expensive store remained.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on August 2, 2018  6:29am

Mcg2000, I know nothing about retail. But the middle middle class has been shrinking with the number of both worse-off and better-off households increasing. It would not be surprising if this trend was reflected in people’s shopping behavior. When I was a kid, everyone shopped at Sears; today people are more likely to shop at Walmart or Nordstrom’s.

posted by: mcg2000 on August 2, 2018  6:40am

Outlets are a big deal with people going to Clinton Crossing or the one of two Tangers Outlets, including one at Foxwoods. L.L. Bean already has an outlet In orange next to Talbot’s Clearance Center. I think a lot of the grad student population as well as young professionals who may not have such a high income yet (think medical residents), would want an affordable place to get nice clothes.

posted by: NHPLEB on August 2, 2018  7:08am

.....and all the products in the “All-American”  store come from overseas.

posted by: 1644 on August 2, 2018  10:44am

NHPLEB: The boots and some household items are still made in the US.  If you want ready-to-wear American made shirts and pants, shop at Press.  Otherwise, you can go to Greg the tailor.  For women, there is Wisdom.  Bean’s Malay shirts are $50, while the US made Press version will be $100.  Or your can get a third-world shirt from Gant for $120.  Brooks Brothers also offers US made clothing, but the closest store is the outlet in Clinton. BBs prices are comparable to those of Press.  I believe both Ensons & Press do made to measure, last I did so (at Ensons) the tailoring was done in Brooklyn.

posted by: MotiS on August 2, 2018  2:18pm

If you are looking for American made clothing and not wanting to pay a substantial premium you can check out these online retailers:
http://www.texasjeans.com/
https://www.bullhidebelts.com

https://www.allamericanclothing.com/made-in-usa/shirts.html

I have nothing against LL Bean but buying products made in the USA helps keep our friends and neighbors employed and helps folks from all sectors of the economy. From the factory owner to the person working on the shop floor to their accountant and attorney.

posted by: BevHills730 on August 2, 2018  5:45pm

1644,

Thanks for reminding me that it was actually a board member who was a major supporter and that her support was flagged by Trump himself.  Supporting a destroyer of national monuments should be something that they disavow.  I’m not wild about Patagonia but at least they took a stand on protecting wilderness from this maniac.

posted by: mcg2000 on August 2, 2018  10:41pm

1644 I think Greg the Tailor closed down.

posted by: RobotShlomo on August 3, 2018  11:19am

NHPLEB said;
The important thing is that Yalies and suburbanites have someplace trendy and expensive to shop at rather than the nasty locally-owned small businesses.  It’s the world according to Yale.  NH is the puppet on the string.  Yale’s wish is our command.

Yet another generic steel and glass facade that can house any business they want. Totally and completely non-descript, and lacking any distinct personality of it’s own. Devoid of any individual identity. No different than any of the gentrified “college towns” across America.

It reminds me of that scene in The World’s End where they walked into the First Post and it’s been renovated.

“Been bought by a chain, isn’t it?”.

“Part of that nationwide initiative to rob small, charming pubs of any discernible character”.

“Starbucking, man. It’s happening everywhere”. 

“Can’t take away the smell though”

“I’m sure they tried”.

posted by: glasshalffull on August 9, 2018  12:38pm

And how is it that this big, beautiful, brand new building pays only $46k in property taxes?  I understand that Yale managed to get the non-retail space (dormitory?) classified tax-exempt, but how on earth is the retail space only assessed at just under $1.1 million?  That’s like 3 or 4 modest houses in East Rock.  Another screwing for the unwashed citizenry, with negligible benefit to the city.  If I missed/misstated something, happy to be enlightened.

Here is the current year tax bill:
https://www.mytaxbill.org/inet/download/bill/detail/pdf?byear=2017&btype=1&bnum=16898

And the assessments:
http://gis.vgsi.com/newhavenct/Parcel.aspx?pid=107367  (“Dormitory”)
http://gis.vgsi.com/newhavenct/Parcel.aspx?pid=16781  (retail space) 

Note that this “Grade A++ ” building is appraised at “35% good”, meaning the city’s tax appraisal is only 35% of the replacement cost.  Most residences are at least 65% good, many higher.