A week and a day before its official opening, the new REI Co-op store in south Glenwood Springs looks like an outdoor teaching lab.
Near the front of the 20,300 square foot Roaring Fork Marketplace space that once housed Office Depot (3216 S. Glen Ave., Suite A), a group of new REI employees learn to instruct and help customers to buy a suitable backpack.
Another group at the back of the store looks at the different shoe brands; another learns to match customers with the right mountain bike and accessories; another learns everything there is to know about camping gear; ditto for paddle sports.
The front counter is lined with future cashiers who are training in the computer system.
Employees will take part in a “Friends and Family Night” trial run on Wednesday to practice their newly learned customer service and sales skills. The store opens with a three-day grand opening celebration Friday-Sunday, July 22-24, including giveaways and an outdoor social from 1-5 p.m. each afternoon with music and an outdoor gear festival featuring many brands.
It’s all part of REI’s hands-on, “see, feel, touch” approach to outfitting its customers which, according to new Glenwood Springs store manager Jace Harms, sets REI apart in the retail industry from outdoor recreation.
“It’s part of our heritage as an outdoor outfitter, to really work to serve everyone who comes through the doors, and we put that into action every day,” said Harms, who has been employed by the co-op. owned by members for four years. years.
The Nebraska native joined the company after moving to Dallas about 10 years ago. He worked at the Dallas flagship store before jumping at the chance to manage the new Glenwood Springs store.
“It was an opportunity for me to get a little closer to home and where I grew up, while still providing that outdoor playground that we all enjoy,” Harms said. “This community continues to embrace me and remind me of the small rural town where I grew up, and it’s refreshing to be in a community where you know people’s names and can get involved and give back to the community. “
Already since arriving in March, Harms said he has volunteered for a Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) trail work crew in the Red Hill Trails area of Carbondale.
RFOV was also one of four local organizations to benefit from the first round of REI Gives grants, totaling $20,000. The others were the Wilderness Workshop, the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association and Gay for Good.
The Glenwood Springs store, due to its small size compared to urban flagship stores, and due to its location as a gateway to outdoor recreation, is classified as a “gateway” store.
It is similar in size and product categories to REI stores in
Dillon, which opened in 2017, and the Grand Junction store, which opened in 2000, then moved and expanded a few years ago.
Surprisingly, although hiring the 45-54 staff needed to run the Glenwood store has been difficult in the region’s tight labor market, Harms said they are currently at 41 employees.
“One of the things that has kept me with REI is that at the center of everything we do is people,” he said. “We value and pride ourselves on taking care of our employees at every turn. So responding to the local hiring climate, to make sure we present ourselves competitively, is part of that.
REI also emphasizes local hiring among existing outdoor enthusiasts as much as possible, as it is the resident experts who are best placed to provide advice on where to go locally to recreate, and what type of equipment is the best, Harms said.
“Whether it’s trying a new activity or hitting a familiar trail or waterway, we aspire to be at the center of people’s outdoor life for products and expertise,” a- he declared.
Incentives for employees include a one-time $300 signing bonus and a paid day off from day one so they can get out and recreate, Harms said. And, company-wide from 2023, there will no longer be a minimum hours requirement for employees to receive health insurance benefits, he said.
REI Glenwood is always looking for full-time and part-time Retail Sales Associates; info on the REI jobs page.
Outdoor commercial cohabitation
Harms said REI knows it’s not the ultimate outdoor gear solution, especially in smaller communities that already have an established outdoor culture.
While the new REI store offers gear and apparel for hiking, camping, paddling, cycling, running, fitness and snow sports, as well as a specialty bike and ski/snowboard store for adjusting and repairing equipment, there are niches that still fall to others.
“We have every intention when a customer says ‘oh you don’t have escalation’ or ‘you don’t have that brand’ we can say ‘no, but you know who does, it’s Summit Canyon, or Treadz, or Hookers, or Sunlight, or Factory Outdoor,” Harms said.
Summit Canyon Mountaineering store manager Emma Hunnicutt said it was important to have an established presence and a loyal customer base.
“As for the addition of REI, we look to the future with optimism and are continually grateful for the support of our residents, who are like family to us,” she said.
Hunnicutt noted that Summit Canyon has been equipping locals and visitors for outdoor adventures since 1978, “and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon,” she said.
“We are excited to return to our roots and have been working on expanding our climbing and mountaineering departments, as well as offerings in just about every category,” Hunnicutt said. “Summit is more than just a store, it’s an essential part of the community.”
For REI’s part, Harms said the store had recently joined the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association and hoped to connect to the business world in other ways.
“One of my goals is to meet with these business partners and see how we can support each other, whether it’s through stewardship and partnering to do a trail project or litter pick-ups, or whatever. “, said Harms.
When it comes to local outdoor recreation demand, with a large population base in the Roaring Fork Valley and Garfield County, and some 2.2 million tourists visiting the area each year, “We believe that there are plenty of outdoor activities for everyone,” he said.
REI also has more than 1.1 million lifetime cooperative members in Colorado.
Senior Reporter/Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or [email protected]