At the entrance to the famous White Mountains in North Conway, NH, REI Co-op’s first gateway concept store shifts the emphasis from shopping to outdoor adventure and community. An evolution in experiential retail, the new store is focused on empowering members to connect with nature and the area’s rich variety of year-round recreational pursuits—skiing, mountaineering, biking, fishing, camping, to name a few. Drawing on the knowledge and expertise of skilled locals as well as REI professionals, a variety of workshops, guided experiences, demos, and community events support both seasoned and novice enthusiasts.
A collaboration between IA Interior Architects, REI’s internal design team, and Architect of Record LEVY Architects, the store is a hub for planning and sharing outdoor adventures or just hanging out over coffee. Of course, all the necessary gear to outfit the co-op’s members (53,000 strong in New Hampshire) and the millions of visitors to the area each year is available to rent or purchase.
To repurpose the two-story timber storefront and define the lobby, the design team added a 50-foot metal canopy and a new vestibule. A double-height atrium baths the entrance in natural light, and added merchandisable timber-slat walls create an outdoor-essentials marketplace.
From there, the visitor pathway leads to the heart of the store—the experience and rental bar anchored by a service desk of reclaimed wood clad in hot rolled steel. Long workshop tables, metal stools, and benches are convenient for guide and workshop use. At the back wall, oversized glass-paned barn doors reveal the full inventory of rental gear and shop services.
Inviting lounge seating can spur conversation or book browsing. The open plan and multipurpose displays are designed to be flexible for future growth, as well as special events and community gatherings.
A full third of the over 25,000-square-foot space is committed to this new concept, with merchandise for sale to the left and right.
REI’s new retail experience, aligned with local expertise and like-minded organizations, is a new destination for both pre- and post-outdoor activity, as well as education, convenience, and community.
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