I can't believe it took me so long to visit the Salem Summit Company outdoor store here in Salem, Oregon. It's been open for, what, a year and a half?
Whenever I thought about stopping by, I was on my way to somewhere else.
Hey, being retired doesn't mean I'm not hugely busy. I've got Tai Chi classes, coffee shop blogging, Minto Brown Park exercising, and so much else to do.
Today, though, I finally did the deed.
Hugely impressed. Great store. Friendly staff. Excellent selection of merchandise in a compact space. Kind of like REI compressed down to the main stuff outdoors'y people really need.
Like jackets, gloves, shoes, packs, camping gear. And naturally, t-shirts.
Salem Summit Company is famous for its t-shirt design. Sarah Evans of SalemIs described this happenin' piece of apparel.
I can’t remember exactly when or where I first spotted one. It was probably at a summertime barbecue, or maybe on a camping trip with friends. It might have been green, or blue, or heather black. Wherever it was, I know I smiled at the lettering below the trees-and-mountains logo: “Salem, USA Elevation 214 Feet.”
Little did I know that I was staring at what would become a mini-fashion trend among outdoorsy Salemites. T-shirts for Salem Summit Company, an outdoor gear store that opened downtown on State Street in March 2012, frequently pop up around town — and out on the Northwest’s trails, rivers and mountains. I rarely go out in Salem anymore without seeing one of the shirts on a stranger. And they frequently show up on at least one of my friends (and often more than one) at our gatherings.
I got one. Charcoal gray, as displayed in the photo. Very comfortable. Soft cotton. I'm a t-shirt connoisseur. Salem Summit Company has done the t-shirt thing right.
So much so, they attracted a large group of wearers to a photo shoot at Riverfront Park last year. I wasn't there, of course, being a latecomer to the Salem Summit Company party.
Well, better late than never.
I exited the store wearing my newly-bought t-shirt, feeling like a kid who just has to wear his new shoes after being bought. I also got myself a much-needed Mountain Hard Wear Stimulus Glove.
Though this sounds like something you'd buy in a sex toy shop, fortunately (or unfortunately) the glove is only designed to stimulate the screen of a smartphone. It'll be handy, literally, to be able to easily check my email and twitter feed while enjoying the outdoors on a cold day.
When I went into the Salem Summit Company store, I joked with an employee about wearing an REI rain jacket. The subject of REI came up again in a conversation with another staffer.
I told him that I consider Keizer Station to be a hell-hole of an autocentric shopping center that I only visit under extreme duress -- like when a store there has something that can't be gotten anywhere else.
I like REI, but I said that Salem Summit Company should do just fine after REI opens. Just as LifeSource Natural Foods doesn't appear to be suffering after Natural Grocers and Trader Joes came to town. The Salem Summit owner, Al Tandy, agrees:
Download Salem Summit newspaper story
Salem Summit Company offers a shopping experience that REI can't match. It's way more relaxed and intimate, with a trying-on room near at hand, knowledgeable staff always available to answer questions, and a carefully selected set of quality merchandise.
I'm looking forward to many more visits to this locally-owned store.
And getting even more intimate with my Mountain Hard Wear Stimulus Glove.
It's a great glove, one of the most comfortable I've ever worn. More of a driving and sidewalk-strolling sort of glove than a Mt. Everest glove. I wore the pair of gloves home also, feeling all outdoorsy in my Mini Cooper with the heat set to 70 degrees.