REI Opens New Riverfront Store, Bringing Retail, Recreation Together

Andy Dahn
April 05, 2019 - 3:56 pm



CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A warehouse along the banks of the Chicago River has been transformed into a unique retail and recreation destination.

"The Chicago River defines Chicago's past," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at the opening of the REI Co-op Store at 900 West Eastman St. "It's going to define Chicago's future."

Mayor Emanuel was on hand to cut the ribbon on the new REI that was previously located in the 1400 block of North Halsted St. 

Tim Spangler, the senior vice president of the Seattle-based retailer, said the move was not to make more profit.

"The purpose was not to sell gear," Spangler said. "The purpose was to get people outside. We believe in the power of nature to bring people together. We believe that a life outside is a life well lived."

The mayor said the store will ensure that every community in Chicago is connected to the river, thus transforming it into the city's next recreational frontier.

"This is the first REI store that brings both retail and recreation together, the first one of its kind anywhere in the country," " Emanuel said. "You can both buy whatever you're looking for and then you can go out and canoe or kayak—that's a unique opportunity for the city of Chicago."

With over 75 employees, he said REI will continue to offer a full-service bike, ski and snowboard shop, outdoor programs and events in its new Lincoln Park store. It will soon include habitat improvements, pedestrian walkways, fishing stations, vegetative islands and canoe launches.