We are thrilled that REI has come to Billings and has become a corporate member of Billings TrailNet! Billings TrailNet is thankful for their support and wanted to learn more about the co-op, so we sat down with REI Billings Store Manager Caryn Youngholm.
She shared the story of REI’s humble beginning, which took place in Seattle. The year was 1938 with founders Lloyd and Mary Anderson. The Andersons were mountaineers who wanted to source quality ice axes for their adventures, so they started a co-op with friends to buy them directly from manufacturers.
REI now has 175 locations, including a store in Billings, which opened in 2020. REI is still a consumer cooperative where members pay $30 for a lifetime of benefits, including member free standard shipping, early access to curated products and limited edition gear, 20% off shop services, a co-op member reward, and access to shop and trade in used gear with Re/Supply.
REI’s core purpose is to “inspire and enable life outside for everyone,” which is what the Billings store strives to accomplish locally.
“I love that we are able to bring outdoor adventure to people who may have never experienced it,” Caryn says. “We get people into the store who have never really done outdoor adventuring, and they tell me a story about how we inspired the outdoors to them, or they tell us about a new experience they had. It’s really fun to hear.” To make things even easier for people to get outside, REI rents backpacks, sleeping bags, stoves and other gear, so everyone can try an adventure. Additionally, REI hosts workshops and events to help people connect outside. This summer, REI Billings will be hosting bike rides every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. For details about events or rentals, call the local store at 406-500-3075 or stop in at their location at the corner of Shiloh and King Ave.
And when a new member joins the co-op, REI donates $5 to the REI Cooperative Action Fund. In addition to REI’s corporate giving, the Fund supports organizations building a more inclusive outdoor culture and improving health and well-being for all people.
Billings REI employees chose Billings TrailNet as one of three local nonprofits to receive a local grant from REI because BTN’s work fits well with REI’s initiative to build more healthy, sustainable, and resilient cities and towns that improve health of people through increased access to healthy nature.