One of the true outdoors stores owned by outdoors people with merchandise for the true outdoors enthusiast is now open in Orem's Lake Point Shopping Center.
Recreational Equipment Inc., known as REI, opened its second Utah store last week. The Seattle-based chain opened a store in Salt Lake City a few years ago. The Orem store is the company's 42nd retail outlet.REI officials say the outdoor gear chain is the nation's largest consumer cooperative. The company is owned by more than 1.3 million members. Anyone can shop at the stores, but only those who pay the $15 membership fee share in the company's profits. Last year, the company distributed more than $25 million in dividends.
"What we make after taking out operating costs is distributed among members," REI President Wally Smith said.
The cooperative was formed in 1938 when a group of 23 Seattle climbers decided to pool resources to purchase equipment. The cooperative allowed the group to purchase the highest quality equipment from Europe at the cheapest prices.
"They started a buying club and it grew from there," Smith said.
It wasn't until 37 years later that a second REI store opened in Berkeley, Calif. REI expanded to the East Coast in 1987. REI is not a typical sporting goods store. It specializes mainly in high-quality equipment and apparel for outdoor activities. It sells the gear demanded most by the outdoors type.
"We're a sporting goods store but really narrowly focused," Smith said. "We're not in the team sports kind of business."
The store's merchandise includes gear for camping, backpacking, hiking, cycling, climbing, canoeing and kayaking. The Orem store also has repair and rental shops. In the fall, the store will start selling skiing and snow-boarding equipment and apparel.
The Orem store features a 20-foot-high wall for rock climbers. REI also has detailed books and maps on where and how to conduct these outdoor activities. An in-store resource center has free information on how people can get involved in outdoor recreation. The store regularly sponsors information and instructional seminars on outdoor activities.
Since expanding in 1975, REI has acquired four outdoor equipment manufacturing subsidiaries located near Seattle. The cooperative also operates a mail order service and an adventure travel club.
Operating hours for the Orem store are from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays. On Saturdays the store will close at 6 p.m. and on the Sundays the store will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.