REI coming to Dillon next spring, shaking up Summit County outdoor retail market

Sports Authority decalred bankruptcy while REI was scouting for possible locations in Summit County, creating an opportunity for the outdoor retailer to set up shop in Dillon.
Jack Queen / |

The rumors are true: after months of speculation, the town of Dillon and Miller Real Estate Investments announced that REI, a national outdoor clothing and gear retailer, is slated to move into the old Sports Authority building in Dillon. The town’s marketing and communications director, Kerstin Anderson, said that while the lease had technically not been executed yet, it had been signed, meaning that REI’s big move-in is now all but certain and will likely happen this spring.

REI had been scoping possible locations in Summit County for some time and was drawn to Dillon’s central location, Anderson said. The stars aligned for the company when Sports Authority declared bankruptcy in March and then in May announced it would be closing all of its stores — including its location in the Dillon Ridge Shopping Center. The Seattle-based company could not be reached for comment.

The town doesn’t have the authority to decide what companies can or can’t move in, so long as they’re up to code. But Dillon officials were in close communication with Miller Real Estate while it was courting possible tenants to ensure a good fit. As part of the deal, the town will be giving REI a sales-tax rebate, which will refund a portion of the local taxes the company pays over 10 years. That’s an incentive strategy the town has been using more frequently to lure businesses to the town core, including Cameez Frozen Yogurt and Lake Dillon Bowling and Billiards.

While there’s a smattering of small businesses across the county that sell outdoor gear, there hasn’t been a national big-box gear retailer since Sports Authority folded. The arrival of REI, which carries many gear and apparel brands as well as its own line of products, would fill the gap left by that bankruptcy.

Local business and Summit County residents were generally optimistic about the move and weren’t too concerned that the heavyweight retailer might pose a threat to mom-and-pop shops.

“We’re really excited to hear that REI is opening a location in Dillon,” said director of marketing for Christy Sports Randy England, whose company sells and rents ski equipment and has a location across the highway. “They have a great selection of outerwear and apparel, their staff is very knowledgeable and they have a similar standard of customer care that we do. There’s always a great synergy when both of our stores are in close proximity.”

He added that Christy Sports doesn’t see REI as a direct competitor but rather a complementary store that’s outside Chirsty’s niche of ski renting and sales. Some REI locations rent equipment, but it’s unclear whether or not this one would. And while the Sports Authority that used to be in Dillon Ridge also rented skis, England said his company didn’t really see them as direct competitors, either.

That echoes the sentiment of town officials, who Anderson said felt that bringing in companies with overlapping customer bases is often a good thing for everyone.

“We hope that REI, much like the philosophy with Natural Grocers and Whole Foods together in Frisco, will help other retailers and attract more shoppers,” she said.

“In places like this, small businesses drive the area, but having an REI or something adds more flavor, more options,” said Nathan Allen, a part-time resident of Frisco for several years. “I don’t think it’s going to totally crush competition because people here value their small businesses.”

Kelly Ludwig, who lives in West Vail but studies in Summit County, felt the same way about the arrival of an REI, adding that small businesses did fine when Sports Authority was in town.

“REI has great corporate values — I love the co-op, the way they treat their people really well, the work they do for the environment,” she said, referring the company’s co-op membership that gives customers 10 percent back on purchases and other perks. “People are still loyal to the small businesses here and I don’t think REI will change that.”

Scott Wescott, owner of Wilderness Sports, was a little less sanguine about the news but also optimistic and confident in the strength of his business. His store, which offers ski sales and rentals in addition to a large inventory of apparel and gear, is also across the highway from the possible REI store.

“It will most certainly have an impact on our business,” he said. “We’ll just continue to do better at what we do.”

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