REI makes New York City debut

NEW YORK — REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) has opened its first-ever store in Manhattan, in the landmarked Puck Building in SoHo. The 35,000-sq.-ft. space has been carefully restored to honor the brand’s nearly 75-year heritage and the building’s more than century-old history.

The Seattle-based REI partnered with Callison to incorporate natural elements and historical items that were reclaimed from the Puck Building into the retail space. The building’s brick walls and ceilings, and steel columns were exposed and refurbished to honor the original structure as it appeared in the late 1890’s. Wood from the original construction was repurposed into the store’s cashier counters and canopies, display tables, chair railings, mirrors, wall coverings, signage and more.

Historic items found in the building were incorporated into display tables, fixtures and décor elements throughout the space. Approximately 30 original stone printing tablets discovered during construction and dating back to the early 1900’s are displayed near the cellar level cashier area. (The Puck Building, the original home of Puck magazine and J. Ottman Lithographic Co.) Two steam-engine flywheels — remnants of the printing presses housed in the building — are also on display.

The centerpiece of the store is a newly-constructed central staircase that physically and visually connects the main floor with two sub-grade shopping levels (joists removed from the original floor were used for the stair treads). The main floor or ground level houses camping gear, travel products, seasonal items and technical items, such as GPS units. It also features a bike and ski stop for quick repairs. A full-scale bike and ski/snowboard repair shop is located on the sub-cellar level, which is also home to a community room that will be used for classes and as a meeting space for local partners.

REI operates 122 retail stores nationwide. Looking ahead to 2012, the company’s new locations will include Woodbridge, Va.; Oxnard, Calif.; Medford, Ore.; and Indianapolis.