Byline: Jean E. Palmieri / Melonee McKinney

NEW YORK — After nearly a century in business, L.L. Bean will open only the second of its full-line stores, in Tysons Corner mall in McLean, Va., this summer.
In an interview here Thursday morning, Leon Gorman, president of the Freeport, Me.-based company and grandson of the founder, revealed that the 75,000-square-foot store will be the first phase of a conservative retail expansion that calls for the opening of three to five stores in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast over the next three to four years.
“It’s probably overdue,” Gorman said of the company’s retail plans. “We’ve been pushing off reality for a long time.”
L.L. Bean was founded in 1912 when Maine outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean created a new kind of boot that combined lightweight leather tops with waterproof rubber bottoms, which he sold through the mail. The boot business evolved into a showroom that became the foundation for the company’s flagship store, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Gorman, whose mother was Bean’s daughter, has been president of the privately owned firm for over 30 years. He said that in today’s retail climate, a company “has to be a multichannel retailer” in order to be successful.
In addition to its legendary catalog and 110,000-square-foot flagship store in Freeport, Bean also operates a highly successful Internet business. In fact, the LLbean.com Web site is constantly rated tops among all e-commerce Web sites — a place few apparel retailers ever appear. The company also operates 10 outlet stores and about 20 units in Japan.
Gorman acknowledged that the Web site “has been very successful” and is expected to complement the company’s retail stores and its catalog.
Calling the company’s new unit the “first significant retail presence outside of Maine,” the Tysons Corner store will be two floors and will include “a fair amount of interactive features,” including a two-story waterfall, a trout pond and a climbing wall for children, Gorman said. It will be located near Bloomingdale’s.
In addition, the company will open two smaller units, which Gorman is calling L.L. Bean Discovery stores, in the D.C. area. One will be located in Columbia, Md., and will open next year. The second of these sites has yet to be selected.
The Discovery units, which will average around 20,000 square feet, will feature a more edited assortment of men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, activewear and related hard goods, including L.L. Home.
“It will have the appropriate assortment of apparel and gear,” Gorman said.
The store in Maine is approximately 65 percent soft goods and footwear and 35 percent hard goods.
Both the Tysons Corner store and the Discovery units will carry a similar mix.
Gorman explained why he chose to expand in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.
“We have all kinds of customers in the greater Washington area,” he said. “Based on our catalog penetration, it was either that or the New York-New Jersey area. But the Tysons Corner space came up first.”
He noted that if the stores in the Washington area are successful, the company will look in the New York-New Jersey area as well.
Gorman said the staff that will work in the Tysons Corner store is currently being trained at Bean’s Maine headquarters.
“They will be fully acclimated [in the L.L. Bean culture],” he said.
Gorman was in New York to attend the press preview of the Auto Show at which the company unveiled a namesake all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle, a la the Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer.
Beginning in late October or early November, the Subaru Outback Limited Special L.L. Bean Edition will hit sales floors across the country.
In addition, L.L. Bean will be the official outfitter for Subaru, and Subaru will be the official vehicle for L.L. Bean.
During the first model year, the companies expect to sell about 10,000 vehicles.
The relationship between Subaru and L.L. Bean stemmed from both companies’ involvement in Leave No Trace, an organization dedicated to keeping the outdoors clean. “This is about two brands sharing a history of supporting the outdoor lifestyle,” said Bill Cyprus, vice-president of marketing for Subaru.
The car will be available in five colors and feature the L.L. Bean logo on its exterior.
Brad Kauffman, general manager of L.L. Bean’s outdoor business unit, said, “This is such a perfect fit because there is such overlap between our customer groups.”
The Outback won’t be available for sale in the L.L. Bean catalog or online, but Kauffman said information on the car will be included in both places.
Although no sticker price has been set, the average price of a comparable vehicle last season was between $23,000 and $28,000. The 2001 Outback, however, features a larger engine.