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New REI Store in SoHo's Puck Building Pays Homage to Century-Old History

By Andrea Swalec | November 22, 2011 6:45am | Updated on November 22, 2011 8:33am
REI's 35,000-square-foot store at 303 Lafayette St., which is scheduled to open on Dec. 2, pays tribute to the building's more than 100-year history, DNAinfo saw on a sneak preview tour Monday, Nov. 21, 2011.
REI's 35,000-square-foot store at 303 Lafayette St., which is scheduled to open on Dec. 2, pays tribute to the building's more than 100-year history, DNAinfo saw on a sneak preview tour Monday, Nov. 21, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

SOHO — The landmarked Puck Building will soon be home to the city's first location of the outdoor sporting goods store REI — but no one will forget the historic structure's past if the popular retailer has anything to say about it.

REI's 35,000-square-foot flagship at 303 Lafayette St., which is scheduled to open Dec. 2, pays tribute to the building's more than century-old history, DNAinfo saw on a sneak preview tour Monday.

"[The store] will blend the company's outdoor ethos with urban energy, while honoring the historic attributes of an iconic landmark that dates back to 1885," the Washington state-based company said in a statement.

On the ground floor of the three-level store, among a selection of running gear, white paint was stripped from the building's columns to reveal cast-iron. The building's original brick ceiling has been exposed, and repurposed wood is used throughout the space.

Two of the Puck Building's original chandeliers were inverted, equipped with energy-efficient lighting and rehung overhead, REI store manager Les Hatton said.
Two of the Puck Building's original chandeliers were inverted, equipped with energy-efficient lighting and rehung overhead, REI store manager Les Hatton said.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

Two of the building's original chandeliers were inverted, equipped with energy-efficient lighting and rehung overhead, store manager Les Hatton explained.

One level down, not far from the sports bras, REI has retained two 9-ton, 14-foot flywheels that were once part of steam engines that powered printing presses in the building, which published the satirical Puck Magazine at the turn of the century.

Stone lithograph tablets that date back to the early 1900s and were discovered during construction are also on display. Each of the tablets weighs between 80 and 200 pounds each, Hatton added.

"We had to build a special wall to be able to withstand the weight," he said.

Small historical details are scattered across the store's departments, which feature large selections of camping, biking, skiing and snowboarding gear, as well as apparel. In the dressing rooms, old bolts from the building are used as hangers for clothing.

The revamped space provides local touches as well as historical references. Around the building's central staircase, maps of New York and New Jersey bike trails have been painted on glass barriers.

Hatton said he has found Manhattanites to be savvy about the outdoors.

"We definitely have people here who want to get out," he said.

The store is currently putting together a calendar of events for December, including classes in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, backcountry cooking and bike repair.

"You learn first how to fix a flat tire, and then you can learn to take your whole bike apart," Hatton said.

REI's SoHo store will celebrate its grand opening Dec. 2-4 with giveaways each morning, spokeswoman Jackie Schmader said. The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.