Maine institution, L.L. Bean, has served outdoor enthusiasts for one hundred and one years. Employing over 5,000 people, L.L. Bean is the state’s fourth largest employer. Their reputation for customer service and quality is exceptional. Their return policy is unparalleled. Their merchandise, American in design, is not purely American in construction. The iconic L.L. Bean boot continues to be made stateside in Maine but to the dismay of loyal customers, L.L. Bean produces many of their signature items off-shore.
Former Restoration Hardware founder, Stephen Gordon’s new retail experiment Guideboat Company, is a throwback to the old days of L.L. Bean. The Mill Valley company’s focus is on American made, quality, well edited merchandise that evokes the North East’s rural and rugged living. The original guideboat, or glorified rowboat, produced in New England to be used on lakes and rivers as means of transportation and “sport” sets the tone for the brand. While Guideboat Company, has an inventory of both new and old boats to sell, their goal is to convert customers to invest in their brand of rustic New England lifestyle through the purchase of apparel, accessories and home goods. The company’s merchandise assortment oozes with Adirondack ethos at prices that reflect Marin County affluence. Gordon has set out to establish a new branded mode de vie based on old New England “camp” culture.
Ralph Lauren created a new lifestyle and brand in 1967. His incorporation of the polo pony is universally recognized as a sign of wealth and WASP culture. Ralph Lauren, née Lifshitz, neither attended prep school or Dartmouth or any other Ivy League institution, never owned a string of polo ponies or knew what a chukker was prior to the birth of his brand. The success of Polo is not debatable. Whether Guideboat can convince people to live the rustic New England lifestyle, may only be known in the next fifty to one hundred years.
Returning a used fifty-year-old boat due to defect to L.L Bean will never be an issue. Other retailers neither have the integrity or longevity to honor such returns. Good luck to Guideboat in creating their new brand and not so new lifestyle.