Ready for a new adventure?
REI celebrated the grand opening of its Winter Park store last weekend — giving Central Florida residents a place where they can get everything they need to explore the great outdoors.
The popular outdoor retail co-op has more than 150 stores across the country. It sells everything from hiking boots and backpacks to paddle boards and kayaks. But Store Manager Dia Hodnett said it isn’t only what appears on shelves that makes REI special. REI employees are ready to dispense plenty of helpful advice from their own adventures.
Customers and members learn everything from how to properly lace their hiking boots to how to pack their backpacks for the most efficient space and comfort.
In April, REI hosted a free paddle weekend at Dinky Dock as well, allowing residents a chance to use equipment and explore Lake Virginia.
“The thing that gives us the most pride here is what we’re selling and what we’re doing for people is helping them to create memories,” Hodnett said. “We’re trying to set up people up to get out there and have some great experiences. We want to be part of that narrative.”
A.J. Price, a retail sales manager visiting from an Atlanta store, said REI has been looking at establishing stores in Florida for some time. Winter Park is home to only the second location in the state (the other is in Jacksonville), so the response from current members has been overwhelming, she said.
“We’re very happy to be here,” Price said. “Over the past three days, we’ve had a lot of smiles on people’s faces. Everyone I’ve talked to has said, ‘Finally, there’s a store in Winter Park.’”
No matter which outdoor activity you choose, spending time in nature is healthy for both the mind and the spirit, Hodnett said.
“We say an outdoor life is a life well-lived,” she said. “What we mean by that is that there’s that immeasurable, intangible something that you get from being in the outdoors.
“It’s where you get to unplug from the day-to-day and just be in that balance with nature,” Hodnett said. “That does something to us as human beings. … You show up better as yourself in the world when you come back to the pavement.”