VOL. 133 | NO. 168 | Friday, August 24, 2018
Special to The Daily News
Two men on a beeping scissor lift strung a red backpack high on a front wall, a woman removed Hydro Flask vacuum bottles from boxes and displayed them on shelves, two women transferred the day’s truck shipment of Columbia outdoor apparel from boxes to hangers, a woman in back stuck code labels to water footwear, and store manager Annelise Danielson checked to ensure the security cameras worked.
They were among dozens of youthful employees who worked steadily Tuesday afternoon preparing Memphis’ new REI Co-op store for Wednesday’s soft, private opening for friends and family and for the grand opening weekend that starts Friday morning.
It’s a 23,000-square-foot big-box venture in East Memphis, but this outdoor gear and apparel shop is different. As one of the nation’s largest consumer cooperatives, REI is owned by and operated for its 17 million members.
REI membership among Memphians – the lifetime fee is $20 – had grown to about 3,800 when the co-op decided to open a store here. REI already had opened stores in Brentwood near Nashville in 1999, Knoxville in 2014 and Chattanooga in May.
REI operates 152 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia, adding about five new ones a year.
The newest at 5897 Poplar Ave. in Ridgeway Trace Center buzzed with energy Tuesday as many of the store’s 47 employees finished shelving the camping, hiking, water-sports, biking and other products.
“We are on the tail end of wrapping up all the merchandising, all of the signage placement, really prepping the store to get ready for our grand opening on the 24th,’’ said Danielson, a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast who has worked for REI nearly four years.
“Some last-minute product coming in here. Making sure it’s merchandised and looking beautiful for everyone to come in on the 24th and have that ‘ah-ha’ moment,’’ she said.
The co-op places as much emphasis on customer experience as its products. Some employees came aboard as experts in his or her outdoor hobbies, but all have received training.
Starting in September, for example, REI Memphis will offer in-store workshops on camping basics, backpacking basics, and women’s kayaking basics.
One of the teachers will be employee Alison Walker, who is the store’s outdoor programs and outreach instructor and who also works in the action sports department.
“Every month we’ll be teaching a variety of classes, from women’s kayaking to backpacking to climbing. Really, any class you can think of,’’ Walker said. “I’ll be able to teach those to people who register for them online or come to the store.’’
REI plans special events and giveaways for Friday through Sunday, including free breakfast, music, games and REI Outdoor School programs.
The parking-lot events start at 8 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. on Sunday, and end at noon each day.
The store’s doors will open at 10 a.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. on Sunday.