By Dale McGarrigle
Special to The Weekly
Every holiday season, one scent of Washington County is shipped across the country, thanks to L.L. Bean.
Many of Bean’s balsam products, which include wreaths, centerpieces, tabletop Christmas trees and pre-lit tabletop Christmas trees, originate at Whitney Wreaths in Whitneyville. Bean’s spokesperson Carolyn Beem explained, “Balsam products are a significant portion of our holiday sales and are one of our top-selling Christmas products.”
Bean began offering balsam products to its catalog customers in 1983, and Beem said that the company’s balsam business has tripled over the past decade.
“We proudly ship balsam products from the Maine woods to all over New England, across the country to as far away as Hawaii and Alaska,” she said.
The bestseller has been the Traditional Balsam Wreath, made with about 4 pounds of balsam greenery and adorned with real pinecones, silvery faux-reindeer moss, faux crab apples and holly berries and topped with a weather-resistant red bow.
The wreath has become a holiday tradition for many shoppers, both for themselves and as gifts. It is also popular among Bean’s Direct to Business customers, both as corporate gifts as well as a gifting option for companies to their employees.
An Indiana customer wrote on LLBean.com, “As it does every year, the balsam wreath exceeded expectations. Scent, quality and attractiveness keep me buying it year after year.”
A New York customer added, “Beautiful design and a nice size for the front door. I bought these for gifts and everyone is saying how amazing they smell and how fresh they are. Perfect gift for the holidays!”
Many popular L.L. Bean products sell out during the holiday season, but that isn’t the case with the balsam items, Beem said. “It’s a bit more manageable than with other products since these are made to order. We are in constant communication with the vendor regarding orders and forecasts, so adjustments can be made throughout the season.”
David Whitney, CEO of Whitney Wreaths, estimated that his company ships hundreds of thousands of products to L.L. Bean customers, starting Nov. 25 and continuing until after Christmas.
“We’re the largest UPS shipper in eastern Maine, hands down,” Whitney said in a phone interview. Bean’s represents about half of his company’s business. The company, now in its 25th year, gained its first contract with L.L. Bean in 2008 and now produces nearly a dozen items for the Freeport-based retail giant.
Shortly after starting his relationship with Bean, Whitney built a state-of-the-art, 75,000-square-foot factory on the Whitneyville-Machias line.
Whitney Wreaths, which has 20 year-round employees, grows to around 600 employees working in five factories during the holiday season.
Training of seasonal workers started in early November, and production began soon after.
“Every day, when we receive orders, we have 48 hours to get that product out the door,” Whitney said.
The balsam products have been on LLBean.com since August (search for balsam) and are also featured in the latest L.L. Bean catalogs.
Beem said that delivery takes about five to seven days. For products to arrive in time for Christmas, orders must be placed by midnight, Dec. 22, for free shipping; by midnight, Dec. 23, for express delivery.
Basking in the glow of the Boston Red Sox’s World Series win, Whitney said, “Doing what I’m doing, it’s like I’m in the big leagues. Bean’s has such a grand reputation for quality and integrity.”
To order L.L. Bean balsam products, visit LLBean.com or call 800-221-4221.