Midwest native Kirk Stephens was working on his graduate thesis at Western Washington University in 1994 when he took a job at REI as a cashier. While obtaining his master’s degree in geologic sciences, he imagined himself as a future geologist or a teacher. Fast-forward 24 years, and Stephens is still at the recreational co-op, currently overseeing the transition from its Kent headquarters to Bellevue. The new roughly 400,000-square-foot, three-building campus, with offices, a market, and a meeting area and fitness center has been in the works for about three years, and is expected to open in 2020. We caught up with Stephens recently to hear more about the new headquarters and how and where he likes to unwind.
A good running trail. While some see it as work, I run to relax and to think.
To Be Inspired
Mount Rainier — specifically the view from Paradise Ranger Station looking up to the summit. The good news is you can look at the mountain from the city and get a bit of inspiration.
Hawaii, Cannon Beach, or someplace new
For an Outdoor Escape
I love to ski at Stevens Pass.
“Ask yourself if what you’re doing today is getting you closer to what you want tomorrow.”
I appreciate the body of work that Tom Hanks has put together, including Big, Philadelphia, Apollo 13, Cast Away, Forrest Gump, and Captain Phillips.
Who Inspires You?
Randy Pausch, for leaving a lasting legacy and encouraging one to live this life well. (Pausch was a computer science professor whose inspirational “last lecture” before he died of cancer became world-famous.) Marathon runner Desiree Linden also comes to mind today for her sportsmanship and effort in the Boston Marathon.
Last thing you Googled
What’s kept you at REI all these years?
The people. Working with people who have a common purpose to love the outdoors and create great experiences means I am working with people who have similar values and priorities.
Can you reveal any insider details about the new headquarters?
REI is very passionate about the outdoors, so the way we’re connecting the indoor workspace with the outdoors will make it easy to get fresh air. Also, with sustainability being a key focus, the building will be designed to allow natural light throughout, which will help us continue to cut down on energy consumption.
What aspect of the new campus are you most looking forward to?
I really like the way we’re designing the interiors to promote collaboration, innovation, and transparency. The opportunity to bring people together in one building to work together is a great foundation for the future success and growth of the co-op.
Is there a hike you recommend?
Locally, I like the Anderson/Watson lake trail for a day hike and a trip to Gothic Basin for backpacking.