REI opens in Market Square

Photo of REI courtesy: Antonio Walcott

As the chain’s first store in Florida’s Panhandle, REI brings a new level of preparation and excitement to Tallahassee’s outdoor community.

Originally founded in Seattle in 1938 over a lack of accessibility to outdoor equipment, REI has since become a nationally recognized hub for newcomers and experienced adventurers looking to find the right gear or expand their horizons into new territories. Inside the 22,000 square foot store are a range of supplies, equipment and apparel dedicated to hiking, bikes and repair, kayaks and more. To the right of the store’s entrance is an array of camping categorized materials including sleeping bags rolled up onto display shelves and a variety of tarps for customers to choose from to construct their own setup to their liking.

Cooking materials for outside fires including small portable dishes and canteens fill the open spaces in between each section as a way to transition the customer from one area to the next while covering items that may introduce one to the more subtle necessities required to be sufficiently prepared for an excursion into the wild. Hiking backpacks filled with several compartments hang from an adjacent racking wall in rows of three, with another assortment of bigger more conventional looking bags just behind them in cubbies showing off different color-wise and sizes that range from a standard hiking trip to near duffel sized bags.

Gabe Wright, an REI co-op membership holder, typically enjoys cycling and was glad to see the store open in Market Square. He had been shopping online for wheel upgrades and other bike components that other stores couldn’t provide.

“I have a mountain bike so when I need a certain modification done or I want to swap parts like for my brakes or handlebar grips I have to wait about a week or two to get them before I can even worry about the installation,” Wright said. “It’s much easier now to just come in and look at exactly what I need and not have to do comparative searches when there’s someone here to talk to, not to mention a more time convenient return policy as well.”

Preston Thomas, who enjoys trail running on the weekends and was eyeing some injury recovery items, compares the store to other specialty fitness chains but says there is an added attention to detail that makes REI a better alternative when it comes to finding exactly what he’s looking for.

“It’s a lot like Dick’s [Sporting Goods] in its setup being specific to what you can do outdoors but they take it a step further with items related to the sport you might not have thought of before,” Thomas said. “I take a couple off days in between my running when my calves start to tighten up and I’ve been doing things like massaging and stretching them to try and help with that but I might buy of these foam rollers or some tape to see if it does me any good.”

REI opened its doors to the public on Nov. 11. It is located at 1415 Timberlane Road, Suite 201.