Snowshoeing in Central Park? It just might happen more often now that Recreational Equipment Inc., better known as REI, is headed to the Big Apple. Specifically, REI will open tomorrow, Friday, December 2, at 303 Lafayette Street in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood. Dubbed REI SoHo, the 39,000-square-foot store is housed in three levels of the Puck Building, a historic Romanesque Revival piece of real estate adorned with two gilded statues of the building’s namesake “Puck,” the nefarious elf from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”
Naughty elf stories aside, REI SoHo opens in time for holiday shoppers this year as the co-op’s first venture on the island of Manhattan. The company is embracing the building’s history, according to a press release, by retaining the original brick walls and steel columns, though they are adding a bike-repair shop to the basement. Wood from the original construction in the late 1800s was repurposed into the store’s cashier counters and display tables. Said a company exec, “As one of our most extensive restoration projects to date, REI SoHo proves a unique opportunity to blend our nearly 75-year history with the iconic legacy of the Puck Building.”
Grand opening festivities, including prizes and gift-card giveaways, begin tomorrow. REI SoHo already has a schedule of events and speakers online, including climber Conrad Anker on December 15. Anker will talk on snow safety and backcountry winter exploration. All year round, the store will rent gear and run classes on the outdoors from this very un-outdoorsy locale. Keep an eye out for snowshoeing classes to begin. Then flag a cab when it snows in NYC to test your new MSRs before they shovel clean all the paths in Central Park.
—Pam Wright is a contributing writer for GearJunkie and an editor at UpNorthica, a publication on canoe camping and the North Woods.