I recently sent an email to REI suggesting that they do two things that to the best of my knowledge, they do due; at least not in the Atlanta, Georgia area. First off with The Chattahoochee River playing such a prominant role in outdoo recreation around Atlanta, REI should consider having a serious boat rental program for its members and/or future members. Being able to rent a specific canoe, kayak, or paddle board would not onlt allow customers to test drive their potential purchase ( to better understand its handling properties, weight, etc.) but also to have fun. Certainly programs designed to introduce boats and boards of various designs would also generate new interest in water sports.
Obviously, such a program would require a fair amount of space to both store and display boats, but Sandy Springs and Roswell both are in the process of reinventing themselves. There are enough empty building, such as old grocery stores along Roswell Road to allow for an optimum location in terms of size and proximity to the Chattahoochee River. In Fact, the Island Ford Chattahoochee River Recreational Area - part of the National Park Service- is also very close to these potential locations, and offers a boat launch and the safety and supervision of the NPS.
Finally, something i feel i understated in my email to REI, would be the full utilization of that new space. Climbing gyms have found their way into American society, and REI often has a basic climbing wall within their traditional stores. These potential new locations for REI could not only function as boat rentals and sales, but could easily house a more serious indoor climbing gym. This would only enhance the sales of climbing gear and all the camping accessories that traditional climbing can entail, but also offer a meeting place for climbers (both seasoned and beginner alike) to meet, exchange ideas and information. The fact that REI allows climbing within their stores and leads adventure travel trips strongly suggests to me that any safety and insurance concerns can be easily overcome for this kind of controlled environment.
So if any or all of this sounds interesting or reasonable to you, please let REI know in some sort of tangible way, if only by email or post. Thanks for taking the time to read this.
John Paul Arsenault
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Having lived in Maryland for seversal year prior to moving to Georgia, i have seen and used various REI locations in the greater Washingon D.C. area; i am in fact an REI member.
That said, I recently received an email about how REI rents equipment. After putting my location, i was shocked to see that REI does not offer any canoe or kayak rental in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I live just a few easy miles from the Chatttahoochee River, which includes equally easy access to the NPS Island Ford National Recreational Area; also situated on the river.
In turn, Roswell Road is a significant route thru the Roswell-Sandy Springs Area; a significant route of travel for the local population. There are several shopping centers in this area in need of tenents. The other year, Kroger Grocery stores closed one of their Sandy Springs location, leaving an large anchor store available to rent. Bigs lots closed a large store many years ago, also with lots of parking like the closed Kroger store. If this sounds like a downward trend in sales, i can assure you it is not. Mercedes Benz has gone into the same area in a big way, and other retailers are following suit. Redevelopment has begun in earnest.
I respectfully suggest that REI consider one of these locations for a retail store, or perhaps a specialized store that offers canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals. Perhaps an indoor climbing gym could be tied into such a location as well. While the sale of climbing gear does not make an outdoor retailer rich ( I have worked for and managed many small outdoors stores in my life, so i am fully aware ) I also know that climbing, climbing gear, and accessories to water sports such as paddles, life vests, and helmits do contirbute to the flow of customers into a store such as REI. With the Chattahoochee River so integrel to the community, REI would compliment the surrounding community perfectly. (The REI Perimeter store is simply too removed from the river to serve this purpose. ) I hope you take this request seriously, and forward my idea to whomever has the authority to give it serious consideration.
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