Dillon’s new REI means Vail Valley shoppers don’t have to drive to Denver
With a week full of events, the new REI Co-Op at the Dillon Ridge Shopping Center opened its doors for hundreds of eager customers, some of whom spent the night in tents in the parking lot in order to get first access to the highest elevation REI in the country.
Megan Odom, the store manager, said that their first grand opening customer showed at around 1:17 p.m. on Thursday. A small group of campers were the first to make it into the store during Friday’s grand opening festivities. Staff showed up at 5:30 a.m. to begin distributing color coded wristbands that would break the mass of shoppers into waves entering the store.
Bryan Johnson, the Colorado market coordinator for outdoor programs said that they wanted a more communal feel for the grand opening, so customers could mingle outside at booths and enjoy the games.
“(We wanted) people to not feel like they had to hold a place in line,” he said.
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Coffee and outdoor gear
On Friday morning, staff from the store estimated that more than 500 people came to shop. Staff began letting shoppers in at 8:50 a.m. By then, nearly every parking spot in Dillon Ridge was filled.
Cheryl Jones, who arrived at the store at 7:25 Friday morning, said that she wanted to see the action from the grand opening. Several of the brands that REI carries, such as Patagonia and Chacos, had booths in the parking lot in front of the store. There was corn hole and giant Jenga, and a food truck with free breakfast burritos. Red Buffalo Coffee from Silverthorne also provided free coffee.
Jones said she was excited to have a store with staff expertise such as REI.
“All the exercise wear for women is fantastic,” she said.
She added that the only thing she was disappointed about was the lack of water equipment in the store, particularly due to its proximity to Lake Dillon.
The store does carry hiking and athletic wear for both men and women, as well as bike, camping, backpacking and rock climbing equipment. The service shop at the store is currently focused on the biking season.
Although the store is called REI Co-Op, Johnson said there is no difference between it and a regular store. He added that since their founding in 1938 in Seattle, every store has operated as a co-op, but that the store’s branding has recently decided to focus on those old roots.
One of the aspects that makes it a co-op, or cooperative, is the focus on cultural and economic benefits for REI members. Jerry Stritzke, the president and CEO of the company, said that it gives back a large amount of profits to those customers.
“We should embrace that,” said Stritzke. “No other store is giving 70 percent of their profits back to members.”
Johnson added that the store will also offer different kinds of outdoor classes and community nights in the future.
“People can look to us as a place in the future to interact with other mountain people,” he said.
Early birds get the worm
The store held a friends and family night on Wednesday, as well as a preview party on Thursday before its official grand opening on Friday. Grand opening celebrations were held all weekend, with more than 400 customers coming for the second day on Saturday morning.
Elizabeth Welch, an Aurora resident, camped out with her boyfriend on Friday night. The pair were the fourth and fifth customers in the store Saturday morning. She said that they had made back-up plans to go to an official campsite in Summit just in case there wasn’t room for them in the parking lot.
“We were just looking for fun things to do with a day off together,” she said. “REI tends to be a mecca for people who camp.”
Odom said that in order to support a grand opening weekend REI sent employees from all across the country to work this weekend. Once the store begins its every day schedule it will have 36 staff members. She added that most of those staff were new to the company and were from the Summit County area.
For Odom, who has been with REI for the past seven years, it’s interactions with people that make her job great.
“The people I get to work with is why I wanted a career at REI,” she said.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.