REI plans to expand, add employees


The local branch of REI is gearing up for expansion later this year, adding retail space and hiring more staff.

The outdoor equipment retailer, which opened in Sehome Village in 1999, is planning to take over the Sehome Cleaners space next door, adding 5,500 square feet to its current 22,000-square-foot store. The expansion will bring the store just above the company’s average store size of 26,000 square feet, said REI spokeswoman Bethany Nielson.

REI has been looking for opportunities to expand for several years now, Nielson said.

“We have always had really successful sales and member numbers in that area,” Nielson said.

A majority of the new space will be used for retail and will give the store more room to offer more products, said store supervisor Lenny Walker.

The plan hinges on Sehome Cleaners, which has been at its current location for 15 years. The laundromat is in the process of negotiating with the property management company over the cost of moving to a new space in Sehome Village, said owner KC Ko.

REI is also planning to bring on more employees to staff the expanded store. The Bellingham branch currently has 65 employees and is coming up to its annual spring hiring fair on March 8, during which they typically hire 15 people, Nielson said. With the expansion looming ahead, the branch could hire an additional 10 to 15 people.

Construction is expected to begin this summer and finish by early fall.

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