Right to left: CUNA's Dorothy Steffens, Rick Govek, and James Carrick discuss a visit to REI's Madison location during a forum on cooperative businesses at CUNA headquarters in September.
A group of mountain climbers formed REI in 1938 to improve their access to quality gear, which at the time was available primarily in Europe. The company honors its roots by employing modified ice pick handles on its front door.
Notably, REI trains its employees to ask customers if they are members while checking out. If not, they quickly explain the values of membership and ask people if they want to join--an open invitation that sometimes gets overlooked as a means to increasing membership.