(REI will open their new Wichita store this Friday at 10 a.m. The store specializes in outdoor gear like camping and hiking supplies).
It’s three months later than planned, but REI Co-op finally is opening at Greenwich Place this week.
If you’re not familiar with the outdoor store, the ice axes that serve as front door handles offer a clue that this is a slightly different kind of business.
Store manager Ian Erickson calls the store an outfitter. He said 23 mountaineers founded it as a cooperative in 1938 when they had difficulty finding quality, reasonably priced ice axes.
“We were founded just to get people outside and support those experiences that we all really want to have and to not really make money off our friends,” he said.
Except, slightly ironically, there are no actual ice axes at the store, although you can order them there and online through REI along with all of its other products.
When it comes to the content of the Wichita store, Erickson said, “We try to make sure it’s locally relevant.”
The store was supposed to open this spring, but the coronavirus pandemic changed those plans.
The Seattle-area chain has 20,000 square feet at on the western edge of Greenwich Place, at K-96 and Greenwich. It will open at 10 a.m. Friday.
The store is almost cavernous because of its warehouse-height ceiling and lots of room on the floor to distance.
Erickson said a lot of REI stores open in existing spaces, “But this one we built for us, so we were able to keep it open and bright.”
Due to the pandemic, REI initially will have limited hours and limited capacity within the store. It will be open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
REI carries men’s, women’s and children’s clothing and gear for all kinds of outdoor recreation, including biking, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, climbing, running, yoga and camping among other things. It also has a bike repair shop.
The store will be the second REI in Kansas after the one in Overland Park, and the chain says there are already 70,000 lifetime REI members in Kansas who have paid $20 each for the memberships and share in REI’s profits through dividends.
It’s not necessary to be a member to shop at REI.
The company says that every year, it puts 70% of its earnings into the outdoors, such as helping maintain trails.
With the store opening, REI is donating $5,000 to Bike Walk Wichita and another $5,000 to the Kansas Singletrack Society.
Erickson said that’s the benefit of a cooperative.
“It has a lot of cool perks, and it really allows us to do a lot of cool stuff with our communities.”