As temperatures dropped and the leaves changed color, University of Massachusetts students anticipated the return of the “Boot-mobile,” L.L. Bean’s mobile pop-up store.
The 12- foot Duck Boot replica set up shop along a pathway parallel to the campus pond Thursday Oct. 17. It didn’t take long for students to flock to the shop in search of sweaters and classic all-terrain boots. The crowd seemed to perk up at the site of warm clothing on a chilly morning.
L.L. Bean employees, referred to as “Outsiders,” greeted students and handed out discount cards.
Maine native, Ariel Garber has been an official L.L. Bean Outsider for over two years. The retail and marketing specialist put the emotions often associated with the 107-year old company into words.
“It’s still a family owned company. So those values trickle down to the rest of us in all departments. Whether you’re in a regional store or you’re working in our flagship store in Freeport [,Maine] or you’re on the road selling out of a trailer. No matter what, you all have the same family values and focus on customer service,” Garber said.
Garber and the other Outsiders were quick to inform customers and passersby that the discounts are good through December, an advantage to those who missed out on the grand opening of the new Hadley store this weekend.
Sustainable food and farming senior, Camron Olanyk didn’t make it to the party, but has high hopes for the store and plans to use his discount before it expires.
“As UMass continues to grow, more businesses have moved in. This is more evident with businesses like Five Guys and Pinz. I am a bit more excited for L.L. Bean compared to others. Hopefully it helps to highlight the outdoor potential of the area. The valley is about two hours from any fantastic outdoor attraction you could want – kayaking, skiing and snowboarding, hiking, fishing …” Olanyk said.
Cody Updike stood next to Garber. Both were well prepared for any kind of weather in their stocking hats, flannels, and jackets. Updike, an L.L. Bean Outsiderbased in Albany, New York drove to Amherst Wednesday night for the three-day stay at UMass and grand opening in Hadley.
He shared Olaynk’s enthusiasm for the outdoors and had a long list of favorite activities “,… hiking, mountain biking, swimming, just being an Outsider,” Updike said. “Everyone I’ve worked with so far is super nice and friendly. Everyone loves doing things outdoors and that’s always a great part of it … to work with people who share the same passions as you.”
Experiential marketing specialist Kevin Parker moved to Maine from Cleveland, Ohio about eight months ago to continue his four-year adventure with L.L. Bean. He stood next to the Boot-mobile as he and his colleagues took note of the fearless squirrels in a nearby tree. The conversations ignited by the squirrels confirmed they were in their comfort zone.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors myself personally,” Parker said.
The Boot-mobile covers a lot of ground especially in the fall. The crew will be gone “four straight months,” Parker said.
Smith College got the Boot-mobile before UMass did this year. Kerry LeCure, a biological sciences student at Smith attended the grand opening Friday and Saturday. She stood in line for two and a half hours Friday to explore the new store and mostly, “only really went for the free stuff outside, so no major waiting there,” she said.
“You know, my friends and I really committed to the bit with this one. We all fully recognize that what we did was ridiculous, but we had fun,” LeCure said.
LeCure doesn’t consider herself an Outsider necessarily but enjoys “things like hiking” and has “found that Bean Boots are nice for when I do field work in my bio classes, and their flannels are one of my fall/winter staples,” she said.
Lyndsey Ware can be reached at [email protected]