FREEPORT — On Tuesday at noon — not a minute earlier or later — famed fashion designer Ralph Lauren will walk through his Madison Avenue showroom to examine a trio of canoes.

Why should we care about such a high falutin’ thing?

The canoes, brightly colored instead of drab green, are being built by a former Auburn man and his tiny crew in Freeport. For more than a week now, the crew has been working at a mad pace, laboring to bring their products from the lakes and ponds of Maine to the grand stage in New York City.

“It’s fast paced,” said Marc Bourgoin, an Edward Little High School graduate and co-owner of Lincoln Canoes. “It’s exciting. We’re working hard to get it done.”

How hard? By Friday night, the crew was preparing to work most of the weekend to build a pair of customized canoes for the Ralph Lauren people. Those boats will join a third Lincoln canoe that already made its way to New York earlier in the week.

The drama began one early evening last week when Bourgoin got a text message from a Lauren representative.

“They wanted a white canoe,” Bourgoin said. “It’s an uncommon color. I told him, I don’t have one but I could build one for you.”

The Lauren people agreed but with one catch. They wanted it the following Monday, just a matter of days from when the order was placed.

“I said, well that’s a tall order, but let me see if I can get it done,” Bourgoin said.

He contacted his production crew. They talked it over and, what do you know? Everyone was more than happy to take on the feverish pace of the deadline.

“We really wanted to make this work,” Bourgoin said. “It’s a good opportunity for us. I’ve got a really good crew of guys here. They were willing to drop everything and make it happen.”

They did make it happen, as it turns out. The white canoe was shipped to New York and that was that.

Only that wasn’t that.

“Needless to say,” Bourgoin said. “They were really happy with it.”

So happy that the Lauren representative wanted to order another pair of canoes for the store.

“He said, I need a yellow one and a blue one,” Bourgoin said.

Uncommon canoe colors, both. Bourgoin agreed to the work and suggested that the canoes could be completed by July 3. It seemed like a reasonable offer.

“The guy said, ‘no, Marc. I need them Monday,” Bourgoin said. “Ralph walks through the store at noon Tuesday.”

Ralph being the 74-year-old fashion giant whose revenues are measured in billions of dollars rather than mere millions.

“We’ll make it happen,” Bourgoin said around suppertime on Friday. “We’ll get it done.”

On Saturday, he planned to build the boats with his crew at his Freeport shop. On Sunday, the boats will sit in the shop to await their grand launch. On Monday?

“I’ll load them onto a trailer,” Bourgoin said, “and drive them down myself.”

He’ll deliver the canoes early Tuesday, in time for the store managers to prepare them for the keen eye of Ralph Lauren. Bourgoin should be around to see it.

“There’s pride and honor,” he said, “in knowing that these boats were hand-crafted in Maine.”

Bourgoin, 46, bought Lincoln Canoe with his brother, Ron, in 2009. The company itself has been around for more than 50 years. It’s the second-oldest canoe and kayak company in the nation.

After agreeing on terms with the Ralph Lauren people, Bourgoin said he thought about how many such stores exist around the country. The benefits of the deal could not be overlooked, but for Bourgoin and his crew, the ability to work so quickly and efficiently was a source of great accomplishment.

He told the Lauren representative as much.

“I said, it’s an honor for us,” Bourgoin recalled. “And he said, ‘No, Marc. We’re honored.'”

Bourgoin mused over that for a moment or two, but then he had to go. There were canoes to be built and the clock was ticking.

Seriously, my friend. You don’t want to keep Mr. Lauren waiting.


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