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Updated: August 30, 2023

With two stores, Vermont Flannel tests the Maine market

flannel Courtesy / Boulos Co. Vermont Flannel Co. recently opened a store at 432 Fore St. in Portland. The company also has a Freeport location.

Vermont Flannel Co. — the company known for helping popularize flannel lounge pants for everyday use — is planting a flag in Maine.

In May, Vermont Flannel opened a store at 47 Main St. in Freeport, next to Starbucks.

In recent days, the company opened a 1,377-square-foot store at 432 Fore St. in Portland. Both Maine spaces were brokered by Greg Boulos, Samantha Marinko and Nate Stevens of the Boulos Co.

Founded in 1991, Vermont Flannel offers U.S.-made clothing, blankets, hats and accessories. Vermont Flannel says its fabric is made with organic cotton, yarn-dyed for lasting color, tightly woven for minimal shrinkage, and “brushed beyond reason for unbelievable softness.”

Matt Bigelow, president and COO of Vermont Flannel, said the move into Maine is a milestone for the retailer — opening its first stores outside of Vermont.

“There are a lot of similarities between Maine and Vermont,” Bigelow told Mainebiz. 

Bigelow spent part of his childhood in Greene, Androscoggin County, when his parents worked in Lewiston. He remembers making holiday trips to L.L.Bean in Freeport, though he noted how much Freeport has changed.

“It’s neat to see how it is pivoting to being more of a year-round venue,” with events and residential growth, he said. 

“The Freeport and Portland stores are very different locations, very different tests. But the feel when you go in the store is the same.”

Even though the Portland store has just opened as the summer winds down, Vermont Flannel is going into its peak sales period, the fall and into the holiday shopping season. 

“I always tell people here, from Sept. 1 [through the holidays] you should spend between 100% and 100% of your time at it,” he quips. 

Vermont base

In Vermont, the retailer has six stores. The locations range from the small town of East Barre (population 807) to Burlington's upscale Church Street corridor — where the store is near Ben & Jerry’s, Banana Republic and, not far away, Maine-based Sea Bags’ Burlington location. Vermont Flannel also has a store in touristy Woodstock, as well as Ferrisburgh, Johnson and Manchester.

The company will also have a pop-up location at the annual six-state Big E fair, in West Springfield, Mass., coming up Sept. 15 to Oct. 1. Bigelow said Vermont Flannel will introduce a new product at the festival.

Courtesy / Boulos Co.
Vermont Flannel Co. leased 1,377 square feet of retail space at 432 Fore St. in Portland.

In Maine, the Freeport location puts the business squarely in a retail area surrounded by apparel dealers Vineyard Vines, GAP, Polo Ralph Lauren, North Face, Patagonia and of course L.L.Bean. In Portland, Vermont Flannel is in the prime Old Port shopping district. 


Vermont Flannel was founded in 1991 by Mark and Linda Baker.

Getting back to the flannel lounge pants, Mark Baker used to like to say that Vermont Flannel contributed more to “unproductivity” than any other company. 

The same way some brands in Maine are intertwined with the state’s image, Vermont Flannel sees a responsibility in having “Vermont” in the name. 

“We’re selling Vermont Flannel, but part of what we’re selling is Vermont,” Bigelow said. 

The Bakers stepped down from day-to-day leadership in June 2022. Since then, the company has been part of USA Brands, which is led by CEO Joe Van Deman, with Bigelow serving as president and chief operating officer. Another unit, All American Clothing, is based in Arcanum, Ohio.

Some of the back-end production and fulfillment is done out of that location, about 45 minutes from Dayton in southwest Ohio.

Under the Bakers, Vermont Flannel was based in East Barre, Vt., where the Bakers lived. Some production and other tasks are still handled there, but the concept of a “headquarters” has changed, both with the management change and post-COVID workplace shifts.

CEO Van Deman lives in Indianapolis. Bigelow, who grew up in New England, now lives in Ohio, near his wife’s family and the USA Brands site.  

Future expansion

Sam Marinko, one of the Boulos agents who worked on finding Maine locations, said Vermont Flannel is more nimble than bigger national chains, and can move quickly into spaces. She said the Vermont retailer was able to quickly turn around the space at 432 Fore St., formerly occupied by Blazin’ Ace Smoke Shop & Glass Gallery.

Vermont Flannel seems ripe for expansion. It’s easy to see how the retailer’s look and store format could fit into markets like Kittery-Portsmouth, N.H., or beyond. 

In many ways, Vermont Flannel is similar to Portland-based Sea Bags. Both are privately held. Both sell a range of products based on one fabric: flannel or, in the case of Sea Bags, sail cloth. Both are marketed around the mystique of a particular “place.” Both depend on retail stores that have a certain “look.”

Sea Bags is now at 50 stores with locations in Freeport and Portland, but also destinations like Vineyard Haven, Mass.; Mystic, Conn.; Cape Cod, Mass. — and at stores from Bar Harbor south to Key West, Fla.

Bigelow says that Vermont Flannel admires Sea Bags, but for now is focused on organic growth, one step at a time.

“We started the year with five stores and we’re at eight now,” Bigelow said, adding that there are no specific additional locations planned. “We’re investing in patterns and new products.” 

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