FREEPORT — Al Andrews said he likes change. But, only when it “makes sense.”
To him, it never made sense to move out of the house on Runaround Pond Road in Durham where he grew up. He bought the house from his father in 1977 and still lives there with his wife Jackie, to whom he’s been married for 47 years.
He even drove the same 1977 Ford F150 pickup truck for 40 years until selling it to his son, Joe, because Joe would get more use out of it.
It just made sense.
Now 67 years old and just months away from retirement, Andrews said it never made sense for him to work anywhere but L.L. Bean for the past 50 years.
“They’ve always treated me well, right from day one,” Andrews said. “I never had the desire to leave. I didn’t know what I’d gain from it.”
Now a $1.6 billion business, L.L. Bean has many long-tenured employees; nearly 600 of its estimated 6,000 have been with the company for at least 25 years. But Andrews is only the third to have hit 50, an anniversary he celebrated on Nov. 13, 2017.
When he joined the 106-year-old company in 1967, it had about 200 employees and $4.75 million in annual sales.
Andrews was in high school, working part time in the clothing department of Bean’s only building, on Main Street.
“Everything was at the retail store at the time, which was a fraction of it is now,” Andrews said in an interview on Jan. 11.
He had plans to work for the Maine State Police, but his roots ran deep in the company. His father, two uncles, and aunt all worked for Bean at the time, so when it came time for him to graduate in 1968, Andrews signed on as a full-time employee.
He’s been there ever since.
Andrews had a brief hiatus from the company during the Vietnam War, when he was drafted and stationed in Arizona for just 18 months. While preparing to leave Arizona and head back to Maine, Andrews’ captain asked if he had any interest in re-enlisting.
“I replied ‘No. I’m leaving and I’m going to be back at L.L. Bean in about four days,'” he said with a laugh.
In 1974, Andrews was made the company’s first and, at the time, only truck driver.
“Back then, when we had one trailer-full of stock, we had our work cut out for us,” Andrews said. “Now you look out and see all of these trailers we’ve got … it’s hard to believe how much the company has grown.”
Today, he drives the same streets, covering the company’s local route, an estimated 700,000 miles throughout his career. Only now, his truck is one of a fleet of 10.
He’s seen the company expand from one retail store to owning more than 20 properties in Freeport alone, and has watched as what used to be stacks of orders coming in on paper morph into a completely computerized system.
He even recalls being introduced by his father to company founder Leon Leonwood Bean, and has met every president since.
“Everything’s changed,” Andrews said. “… We were a big business way back then. There were times when I’d worry it was getting too big, but it never did.”
The next milestone he’ll hit will be his retirement on March 30.
“I kind of hate to admit this, but I’m almost scared to death,” Andrews said. “Every morning this week I’ve walked in here and thought, ‘This is almost over.’… If you would’ve ever told me that one person would work in one place for 50 years, I would’ve laughed at you years ago.”
Al Andrews of Durham will retire March 30 after working for L.L. Bean for 50 years. He is one of only three full-time company employees to have hit the half-century milestone.