A repost from almost two years ago. I saw a woman at the supermarket today who had a shirt with a NH outline, inside of which was the single word "home." She told me where i could find them, and we had a l9vely conversation. It reminded me of my theory of what LL Bean should have marketed decades ago. If i could go back, I would tell them. Time travel shouldn't only be about getting Grady Little to take Pedro Martinez out in Game 7 of the ALCS in 2003 or buying Intel stock in 1972. You have to help other folks as well.
There was a New Yorker cartoon in the 1980's of one telephone operator telling another "We're going to vacation in 802, 603, and 207 this year." LL Bean missed a trick back then when they didn't start with a line of shirts that had "207" to replace the Izod alligator or the Polo player. Alternatively, they could have had the numbers running down the sleeve. It would be a minor in joke that people could wear outside of New England, with only those in the know getting the reference. They could have broken out a new one every year or so, adding 802, then moving on to 603. After that it would have gotten more debatable. You could have 508 and 413 (Cape Cod and the Berkshires) in Massachusetts, but even though there are some legit New England boatsy places in 978 - Gloucester, Cape Ann - or 781- Scituate, Hingham - the entirety of those areas would not be very LL Bean in image. They would be very LL Bean in market, though. You could get away with 401, Rhode Island, I think. Maybe it should harm the brand, but it wouldn't have. After a long wait and making them suffer for it, they could have let Connecticut, 203, into the club. 518 because of the Adirondacks? Maybe.
Along the way they could have gone for a real inside reference by coming out with 709, then 902, then 506 emblems on the shirts. These are the original area codes of the Canadian Maritimes, reinforcing Maine's otherness and connection to them. I would have loved to have had a shirt with a little 902 over the breast, watching people squint and scowl trying to figure that one out. I would have bought them for the whole family. When the boys went south to go to college, new 603 shirts would have to be packed. 418, the original area code for eastern Quebec could have been used, but none of the others in that province. Mainers wouldn't want to hurt their feelings though, as half of Quebec drives down to vacation at York Beach every summer, and they need the money. That would have to be the end of it. The authorities in Freeport would have to freeze the list at that point.
Yes NH does have beaches along that small stretch, and quite important to us because there are only a few miles of good sand. But the water is cold, cold, even in August. No one (well, Canadians, but please) comes to NH or Maine for the beaches. To get warmer water and a lot of beach you have to get to the southern side of Cape Cod. That's not what LL Bean is selling. They do sell "swimwear," but it's not the tanning and eye-catching variety. This follows their marketing pattern. They also sell underwear, but the category is called "base layers."
Vacationing in northern New England is almost year 'round, leaving out April and May, but there are differences that stretch back over a century which are still influences. All three have skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, skating and ice fishing. NH gets the bulk of winter climbers and ice climbers, but Maine and Vermont have them also. All of those activities support breakfast restaurants, and you can still get baked beans at a lot of them.* That's all very similar. But Vermont has Inns, New Hampshire has grand hotels, Maine has remote hunting camps and big summer houses along the rocky coast. Those are very different flavors. Lakes houses took off in all three after the war, yet still haven't made everything the same. The big hotels had full restaurants, with wine lists and 3-5 courses, and many still operate. The Vermont Inns had smaller dining rooms and menus, even fixed menus until recently, when that would be unsustainable. The Maine coastal mansions had their own kitchens and even servants to make the meals. Restaurants would still spring up around town, because not everyone was going to entertain for twelve, but these were lunchier, beachier affairs. Lobster rolls, clams, hot dogs. For remote hunting camps, those big spenders were hiring pilots, guides, and cooks. Those places needed a fair number of maintenance men as well. Each of those different summer and fall vacations provides a different array of jobs for the locals. Outsiders bring in money, but it's different money.
*Baked beans are traditional since colonial days. That's what "pease porridge" was, nine days old. But they were also a staple of logging camps, where workers could burn through 9000 calories a day. The theory was that the flapjacks and syrup were good for immediate energy, eggs started to feed you in the late morning, meat got you through most of the afternoon, and the slow-digesting beans were needed to keep you on your feet in the late afternoon. Hikers will still order them. If you are up here visiting, you should have the beans for breakfast at least once, just for bragging.