Moments in our History: The 'Great Flood' of 1962 and REI's first 'garage sale'.

REI Community Manager
REI Community Manager
6 14 2,692

Many of our Co-op Members have enjoyed shopping at their local REI store's garage sales. These events are fun treasure hunts where one can find great deals on used gear and apparel. What many folks don't know, however, is that the first garage sale REI ever had came about from an event that almost bankrupted our Co-op!

In 1962, Seattle played host to the World's Fair. From this event came the Space Needle and the International Fountains that can still be visited at the Seattle Center to this day. On the night of April 15th, 1962, the Seattle Water Department attempted to turn up the pressure for the International Fountains to better thrill the tourists visiting from around the country. A water main at 6th Ave and Pine St, located next to the basement warehouse that housed all of REI's stock, burst and flooded the warehouse in seven feet of water and mud. The inventory, valued at $117,632.79, appeared to be a complete loss.

Lloyd Anderson, ever a meticulous record keeper, had insured the product for fire but not for flood. The fate of the Co-op hung in the balance, and no solutions appeared to come close to recovering the loss. For a week, employees had sleeping bags dry-cleaned, scraped mud out of cook pans, sorted through carabiners and pitons, dried out soaked clothing, and poured water out of boots, all in an effort to see what could be salvaged. To the rescue came the superintendent of Seattle City Water, who gave REI instructions on how to file a claim to recover the losses. Thanks to Lloyd's records, REI received a quick settlement covering the items that were damaged. The claim company had no use for water damaged sleeping bags and clothing, so they permitted REI to keep the product. On May 14th the 'Flood Sale' was so successful in selling the damaged gear that REI actually benefitted from the near-disaster!




If you've ever been to an REI garage sale we hope you enjoyed reading about the very first event of this kind at REI. We'd love to hear about your favorite purchase at an REI garage sale!