Thursday, July 20, 2006

REI: Legacy of Seattle's Strong Cooperative Movement

 
 
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Here are photos of the entrance to REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), a display of kayaks, and a customer exiting the store under Swiss Army knife wrist watch replicas, each featuring a different famous mountain peak's time zone. REI was founded as a cooperative in 1938 by a group of 23 Pacific Northwest mountaineers seeking quality climbing equipment. It began in Seattle, a city which was then and is still now a place with many thriving and influential cooperatives. REI now has 73 store locations in the USA, but this is the flagship. One can find the latest in quality equipment for any kind of outdoor recreation. Interesting features include massive entrance doors with ice axes as the door handles, and one of the tallest freestanding indoor climbing walls in the world (65 ft.), visible in a five story glass tower at the south east corner of the store. Really worth a visit when you are in town.

Many years ago when starting on a hike to the base camp on Mount Rainier, who should we spy just ahead of us on the trail out of Paradise but Jim Wittaker, the first American to summit Everest and then president of Recreational Equipment Cooperative. Jim grew up in Seattle, and after service during the Korean war where he trained military personnel in skiing and mountaineering, he managed REI and was its only full-time employee. The coop ethic for REI was "the idea of a membership organization that not only acquired top-quality goods and sold them at fair prices but also paid back to its members an annual dividend equal to 10 percent." Whittaker invested much of his life in the co-op, where he helped to grow the company and served as its President. I hope to feature other Seattle co-ops in coming months.

10 comments:

Mile Stones said...

Kim, can you explain the coops & their legacy a little? And those large clocks - how many? And why so many? What a diverse collection of shots!

Kate said...

Great info. As a customer of one of their shops (in that "other city-Minneapolis") I appreciate the info and the pic. Thanks!

Jazzy said...

The place is so vibrant, I like it very much. Lovely colours and great photos.

edwin s said...

wonderful posts on Co-Ops Kim and the shots are so vibrant!

luggi said...

Ah, the outdoor life. Joy!

Neorelix said...

Thanks for the history Kim. The pictures capture the ethos excellently!

Kim said...

Thanks to each of you for your kind comments.
-Kim

santy said...

Colorful kayaks! love the shots, Kim, thanks. Reminds me of my first kayak experience :)

Felicia said...

I love REI. Nice shots Kim, ours is not so beautiful.

Kala said...

Seattle has a really good canoe kayak team called Seatle Canoe Kayak Team (SCKT) the head coach is a former hawaii resident =) - I think they workout on Green Lake!