Anderson, Lloyd and Mary

Fig. (2) REI founders Mary and Lloyd Anderson. (Tim Tomkinson)

Founders of the Recreational Equipment Co-op (REI), which the couple started in their West Seattle home in 1938 as a way to help climber friends gain access to cheaper ice axes and harnesses by ordering bulk gear from Europe. The two rented shelf space in a nearby grocery before eventually opening their first store, in 1944, near Seattle’s Pike Place Market. There are now more than 140 retail stores in the U.S., including a new flagship just off Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle, and REI sells more than $2 bil­lion worth of out­door equipment each year. It’s one of the top 100 sporting-goods retailers in the country yet still holds firmly to its cooperative roots. The Andersons never wanted a private company. “REI is a co-op, and it oughta stay that way,” Lloyd was once quoted as saying. “I never thought a man should make money off his friends.” Lloyd died in 2000 at 98; Mary, still living near Seattle, is 105.

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