Mary Anderson, who in 1938 co-founded REI, the nation’s largest consumer cooperative, died March 27.
by Jon Weisberg — April 11, 2017, originally published in Senior Skiing
She was born in 1909 and lived to 107.
She and her husband, Lloyd, began during the Depression importing high quality ice axes from Austria and selling them to fellow climbers. They formed a cooperative, a business model popular during the Depression in which members paid a small fee and received an annual dividend based on the amounts they spent with the coop throughout the year.
She and Lloyd were avid climbers and hikers. They ran the business from their home, until the 1960s when expansion no longer made that possible. Both retired in late 60s/early 70s.
Today REI has 140+ stores in the US as well as successful catalog and online operations. Last year it reported revenues of $2.56 billion from 6+ million members who received collective dividends of $193.7 million.
REI pays out more than 70 percent of its profits to the outdoor community and other worthwhile nonprofits. One of its current biggest pushes is encouraging women to love nature.
A past CEO, Sally Jewell, was interior secretary in the Obama administration.
Lloyd died in 2000 at age 98.
On the occasion of Mary’s 100th, the REI Foundation announced a grant in her name that encourages young people to get out in nature and explore.
Remember a few years back when REI closed on Black Friday? Their rationale was to encourage all employees to take a hike (literally) or spend time with family. It was a paid day off.