It’s finally a reality. Tomorrow morning marks the beginning of a new era in Jacksonville and NE Florida. The first REI in the state of Florida opens at 8 am. It’s been a long time coming and the outdoor giant is finally here. So how will REI change the area? From a retail perspective REI gives us a choice. A better choice. And more choices. Beyond the selection, though, is the expertise. Aside from the smallest outdoor stores (of which there are but a handful) you won’t find the hands-on experience needed when making gear decisions. Today our only choices are big-box stores like Dick’s and Gander Mountain along with mass retailers like Target and Wal-Mart. The odds of finding people that can truly fit the gear to you and your needs are slim to none. That will all change with REI. And if it’s not right they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
More than the retail side, though, is REI’s commitment to community and the natural world we enjoy. The doors don’t open until March 1 but they have already provided thousands of dollars in grant money to local outdoor groups. The staff has already completed a service project at Hanna Park. And this is just the beginning. As they conduct classes and begin their outreach in earnest I think we’re going to see a very positive impact on the local outdoor community.
I don’t think it would be fair to write about it without sharing some pre-game pics…
I was surprised to see things like the Biolite stove there. Heck, I didn’t even know there was a grill available for it. Trust me when I say that it took a lot of willpower to not walk out with the Soto Muka stove. 🙂 The hammock selection wasn’t quite what I’d hoped but it’s a start. Right now you can pick up a Hennessy or ENO. We’ll have to work on that.
I’m proud to say that I made my first (of many, I’m sure) purchases. I really wanted a new daypack but didn’t really have the time. I was there to meet and greet local outdoor folks and not shop. That was just an added bonus. So here’s my meager haul. I’ll be back this weekend. 😀
So there you go. Your insider look at Jacksonville’s newest outdoor champion. Get out there this weekend for the Grand Opening and support them as they support the community!