Woman who helped start outdoor retailer REI dies at 107

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Mary Anderson, a climbing enthusiast who helped start the outdoor retailer REI, died March 27, USA Today reported. She was 107.

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Anderson and her husband, Lloyd, along with 21 other mountaineering friends, started the company in 1938. By forming a co-op, they were able to buy outdoor gear in bulk from Europe and other places.

REI, headquartered south of Seattle, has grown to about 6.3 million active members, more than 140 retail stores and about 12,000 employees.

Anderson’s “legacy is deeply ingrained in REI and her contributions to the outdoor community extend far beyond the co-op,” the company said in a statement. “REI and our employees are grateful to the Andersons for their dedication to REI and the incredible foundation they established.”

In 1935, the Andersons decided they needed a better way to purchase gear, according to Co-Op Journal, the REI company blog. Quality ice axes were available for $20, a steep price. Lloyd Anderson began ordering axes directly from Austria, delivered for $3.50 including postage.

The Andersons and friends officially formed Recreational Equipment in 1938. Each paid a $1 lifetime membership fee. Mary Anderson held membership card No. 2, according to the Mountaineers, the Seattle-based nonprofit outdoor organization.

“They never started this buying cooperative to create a store,” Thomas Vogl, CEO of the Mountaineers and a former senior vice president of marketing at REI, told USA Today. “All they really wanted to do was make it easier and more accessible for people to get into the outdoors.”

Anderson was born in central Washington’s Yakima Valley. She was a longtime teacher in the Seattle public school system. She retired from REI in 1968, USA Today reported.

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