That’s what retailer REI promises to offer when it opens its doors Friday morning at Gretna’s Nebraska Crossing.
With an extensive inventory consisting of outdoor recreation clothing and equipment for such activities as camping, hiking, water activities, cycling and fitness, people are eagerly anticipating the opening of the 22,000-square-foot store, store manager Josh O’Connell said Wednesday. The store also includes a full-service bike shop and gear rentals.
Potential customers have been wandering into the retail space only to be politely informed that the store is not yet open.
When it opens, O’Connell said, REI’s first — and so far only — Nebraska location will be a place where outdoor enthusiasts and newcomers can feel comfortable.
“For the experts, this is their haven. I think for those non-experts, this is a place where you can come in and feel comfortable asking questions,” he said. “It’s about having fun when you’re here.”
With the store located between Omaha and Lincoln, REI fits into the vision of Rod Yates, Nebraska Crossing’s owner and developer, for bringing in destination retailers to attract residents from throughout the region.
“I think the trend in the future is retailers will probably open less stores and try to serve a bigger trade area with their physical store and their online channel,” Yates said.
The public’s interest in an REI store was reflected in the hiring process this summer.
O’Connell, a 22-year veteran of the retail industry, said he was pleasantly surprised that the store had no trouble filling its roster of approximately 50 employees. More than 200 people applied for the positions. He said about 58% of the Nebraska store’s employees are women.
O’Connell credits REI’s pay scale for its ability to attract employees. Hourly associates start at $16.55 per hour and mechanics start at $18.30 per hour. Benefits include two paid “Co-op Way Days” each year to allow employees to enjoy outdoor activities and a paid day off on Black Friday.
In addition to pay, O’Connell said REI encourages a lighthearted work atmosphere.
“We have a lot of people (who) were just itching to be part of this,” he said.
The store’s opening weekend will include three days of festivities, events and promotions held in partnership with several community organizations. Regular business hours will be from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
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