Business has been booming for Kennewick's REI store with people wanting a healthier lifestyle and finding it's cheaper to camp than to fly to a resort for vacations, store officials said.
"There's been a big boom in the camping business. With the down economy, people are not taking a big vacation to Europe and Hawaii. They're finding they can outfit themselves for the next 10 years to go camping for the same money," said Dave Berkowitz, general manager of the Kennewick store.
That's why REI is expanding from about 15,000 square feet to close to 20,000 and adding a children's clothing department and shoes for youth.
"REI is dedicated to offering youths an opportunity now and in the future to get outdoors. Obesity is growing and if we don't get out and enjoy the outdoors, people won't care about our parks. They'll cut down trees and make toilet paper out of them," Berkowitz said.
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The store is expanding into the space once occupied by the Treasure Tree, a consignment shop, which moved to Marineland Plaza in Kennewick.
Berkowitz said the store already has added some additional employees, bringing the total to about 30.
"And there's a good chance we'll add more in November and December," he said.
The Kennewick store opened in 2000 as one of five experimental mini stores. REI put them in smaller communities as a test to see how well they would do compared to larger stores in places like Seattle.
"They were very successful. So much so that right away they found the mini stores were way too small. We've already expanded this store once about four or five years ago," he said. "Which isn't surprising -- the Tri-Cities is a recreation-rich area."
Berkowitz said that Sept. 30 is the target date for the grand re-opening.
The Kennewick store offers a variety of gear and clothing for camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, snowshoeing and more. It's a complete bike shop, with a full range of professional bike shop services for street and off-road bikes. It also offers a wide selection of outdoor rental equipment.
"Our customers are important to us. We all do a lot of outdoor sports and enjoy talking to our customers, giving them tips on places to go and advice based on our own outdoor experiences," Berkowitz said. "We're all advocates for getting out and being active."
The store, at 129 N. Ely St., Kennewick, is the only REI in Southeastern Washington; the next closest is in Spokane.
Hours are from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 734-8989.