Hey Portland, get your act together. I’ve got some sad news to share with you about yet another local store packing up and leaving the Rose City. The REI store in the Pearl District, unfortunately, has announced that the store will be shutting its doors for good come February 2024.
The leading outdoor equipment provider in the northwest, REI, has a humble origin story, tracing its roots back to a small climbing gear cooperative established in Seattle in 1938. REI’s branch in Portland’s Pearl District is situated in a sustainably refurbished warehouse, which now houses a mix of retail spaces, offices, and residential units, reflecting the area’s commitment to sustainable development and urban renewal.
In a letter sent out to REI members, the company explained that their decision to close was mainly due to safety concerns and the rise in crime we’ve seen in our area over the past few years. They mentioned that the Portland REI location experienced a record number of break-ins and thefts last year, even after taking extra security measures.
Aside from safety concerns, REI also said that they’ve simply outgrown the space at the Northwest Johnson Street and Northwest 14th Avenue location. They believe they can’t provide the top-notch customer and employee experience they strive for at that particular store. Their lease is up next February, and that’s when they plan to close the doors.
You might remember back in November 2022 when someone smashed a car into the store’s front door and swiped a bunch of clothes before taking off. Sadly, this has become alarmingly too common in the Portland area.
REI still has a presence in the Portland metro area, with stores in Tualatin, Hillsboro, and Clackamas staying open. The company is also looking into new locations, but don’t expect another downtown Portland spot anytime soon.
KGW, reached out to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office for a comment on the situation. Cody Bowman, Wheeler’s spokesperson, shared that the city and Portland Police Bureau leadership had been working closely with REI to address the issues of theft and vandalism. They even carried out a retail theft mission at the Pearl location and implemented some proactive safety measures, like temporary security camera trailers and protective measures at the storefront. Bowman also mentioned that the city’s Street Services Coordination Center has been working to clean up the areas around the store.
Mayor Wheeler is determined to keep REI in Portland and help them succeed here, with all options on the table for the future. However, the news came as a shock to many shoppers and reminded them of other recent business closures in the downtown area.
Thomas Gillpatrick, a marketing professor at Portland State University, said that the city has a lot of work ahead in order to attract new retail opportunities. He noted that potential investors will likely consider closures like REI’s when researching the area, which might lead them to see Portland as less attractive than it once was.