What I Learned Working at REI

In high school, to pay for my car insurance and gas money, I worked at the REI store in Berkeley. It was the second REI store to open and thus its internal store code was 02. When I moved to Seattle to go to the University of Washington, I got a job working at store 01 – the “mother ship”. I felt like I was moving up in the REI universe! At the time, there were about a dozen stores. Now, there are over 40.

This was before REI moved into its current hip flagship store with the 3-story rock climbing wall and outdoor bike paths. Old time Seattelites stillremember the original REI that occupied an old building on Pike St and 11th. Previously a car dealership, broad ramps connected the floors and there was no modern HVAC system. We employees learned to dress in layers.

During my time at both stores, I worked in Shoes, Books and Clothing departments. We had to wear green vests with lots of pockets for pens, transfer slips and membership forms. Wearing the green vest meant you were an expert and easy for customers to spot when they had questions.

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