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Local Businesses Owners Unfazed by REI's Plan to Open Store in May

Fairbanks, AK - REI will open a 30-thousand square foot store in Fairbanks next spring.  The company made the announcement Tuesday.  The new store will include a bike and ski shop.

Rumors have circulated throughout Fairbanks since late summer that Recreational Equipment, incorporated, more commonly known as REI, was considering a move north. “We’ve been looking in the vicinity for about five years,”  says Kevin Golic.  He's the company's Retail Director for Washington and Alaska. He says REI was stalled on finding the right location, until an opportunity arose in the old Fred Meyer Building on the east side of the Golden Heart City. “It’s the right size, it has about the right amount of parking, relatively good location in town, easy access,” says Golic.

Golic says the company’s farthest north store will differ slightly from others across the country.  “It will have the longest lead time in getting products shipped there," he laughs.  "It will have different timing in that winter products extend later into the spring and winter products start showing up earlier in the fall than they would in a Lower 48 store.”

Local outdoor retailers don’t seem fazed by the announcement.  In an email, Beaver Sports owner Greg Wisenhant wrote “Some people feel the days of small local businesses are slowly coming to an end, but in many places, they have found ways to survive.”  Wisenhant says he does expect REI will have an impact on his business, but, he says “Beaver Sports has been a part of the Fairbanks community for the past 42 years.”  He says he looks forward to continuing his business.

Goldstream Sports Owner Joel Buth agrees.  “I think competition is healthy," says Buth.  "I it brings everybody into stepping up their game and those who survive will step up their game, that’s a good thing for the customer.”

Buth specializes in high end bikes, nordic skis and running shoes.  He says REI’s entrance into the local market won’t change how he does business. “I think we can trump everybody else in what we do with our service," Buth says.  "Our community involvement and trail maintenance and all the things we’re involved in.”

REI plans to hire up to 50 employees for the new store which is scheduled to open next May.