April 09, 2020

L.L. Bean cashier becomes a fixture

FREEPORT — It’s been decades since Babe Ruth and Eleanor Roosevelt walked through the doors at L.L. Bean, but the cashier who rang their sales up is still there.

Carlene Griffin doesn’t run the store’s lone cash register anymore, nor does she compile the mailing list on a typewriter or help repair hunting shoes. These days, she oversees fax machines at corporate headquarters.

After 52 years at the company, Griffin, 81, has become a fixture at the outdoors retailer.

“It’s more of a game than a job,” said Griffin, whose son also works for the company. “It is a workplace full of happy people — you rarely see a sad person — and the co-workers like to hear my stories. If they say something, I’ll say, `Let me tell you what it used to be like,’ and they love that.”

Griffin has plenty to talk about. When she started at L.L. Bean in 1935, the company had 60 employees, one cash register, one bookkeeper, three people to open the mail, and one telephone.

Today, she is part of a billion-dollar company with 3,400 employees. A tractor-trailer rig would be necessary to carry one day’s orders.

Better pay and benefits over the years are nice perks, but Griffin said her real treasures are the memories she has accumulated over the years.

The cash register she ran was next to the freight elevator L.L. Bean usually rode to his third-floor office, and he frequently stopped to chat.

“He was really down to earth,” Griffin recalled. “You could talk to him just like you’d talk to somebody you’d known for years.”

Griffin plans to work for at least two more years, so she can celebrate the year 2000 with company. All indications are that won’t be a problem. In addition to lifting weights and walking, Griffin also ballroom dances. She also throws 17 Christmas parties a year at her Brunswick home for different groups of friends.

The year 2000 is “going to be part of a new era,” she said. “I want to be a part of it, and furthermore, I’m going to be.”

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