Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) announced yesterday it will move its headquarters from Kent to Bellevue’s Spring District by 2020.
The outdoor equipment and clothing retailer will develop eight acres of the planned urban neighborhood between Bel-Red Road and SR 520, east of I-405.
The REI Co-op was founded in 1938 by Lloyd and Mary Anderson, who initially ran it out of their West Seattle basement. In 1944 they opened REI’s first store in a cramped loft above Pike Street in downtown Seattle, and in 1955 Jim Whittaker became its first full-time employee.
Whittaker gained fame on May 1, 1963, when he became the first American to summit Mount Everest. His expedition was outfitted by REI.
The co-op opened a big store on Seattle’s Capitol Hill in 1962, and in 1975 REI opened its second store, in Berkeley, Calif.
I enjoyed watching REI’s new flagship store take shape right outside my PEMCO office window in 1995-96, after which the co-op became a magnet for lunch breaks and after-work browsing.
REI’s headquarters moved to Kent in 1988, but now the company looks north to Bellevue, not far from its Seattle roots. Read the Bellevue Reporter story.