2022 in Review: REI opens in Glenwood Springs; Dave & Matt Vans production facility opens near Rifle | PostIndependent.com

2022 in Review: REI opens in Glenwood Springs; Dave & Matt Vans production facility opens near Rifle

Veteran REI employee Forrest Jarvi trains new employees about various shoes at the Glenwood Springs store, which is set to have its grand opening on July 22.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Nothing screams Colorado more than outdoor gear shops and people living out of their vans. In quintessentially Centennial State fashion, this beloved culture was delightfully underscored in Garfield County over summer 2022.

Months of mountain town gossip preceded an incredible advertising campaign. That campaign preceded a highly anticipated grand opening of popular outdoor gear and apparel hotspot REI Co-op in Glenwood Springs.

Perhaps a little more under the radar, Gypsum-based entrepreneurs Matt Felser and Dave Ramsay also decided to bring their business venture, Dave & Matt Vans, farther west. After they started converting vans into rolling living spaces using an Eagle County garage, these two outdoor adventurers rolled into a new production facility just east of Rifle.

Bonuses to this new ambrosia of Colorado culture came newborn jobs, commerce and ancillary sales tax revenues. Especially in light of COVID-19, these new businesses injected a much-need booster shot into local economies.

In REI’s case, it brought up to 54 jobs operating out of a 20,300-square-foot space on the edge of south Glenwood. The new REI store features gear and apparel for hiking, camping, paddling, cycling, running, fitness and snowsports, and a specialty bike and ski/snowboard shop for tuning and repairing equipment.

The new REI Outlet store is set to have its grand opening in Glenwood Springs Saturday, July 22.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

REI also spawned another outdoor lover’s institution for the region, right off the bat offering $20,000 in grants to Garfield County nonprofits, like Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Wilderness Workshop and Gay for Good.

Glenwood Springs REI store manager Jace Harms told the Post Independent in July that meeting with fellow businesses with skin in the game and nonprofits like these was key to bolstering outdoor stewardship in the community.

“Whether trying a new activity or heading out on a familiar trail or waterway, we aspire to be at the center of people’s outdoor lives for products and expertise,” he said.

Dave & Matt Vans, on the other hand, created up to 10 production jobs in Western Garfield County. In February, Felser and Ramsay announced plans to not only open up shop in a 39,000-square-foot facility east of Rifle, but manufacture up to 1,600 vans over the next three years.

Dave Ramsay uses a laptop inside a vehicle produced by Dave & Matt Vans.
Submitted / Dave & Matt Vans

These vans truly exemplify innovation in the face of economic adversity, outdoor accessibility and the great Urban Exodus. Dave & Matt Vans takes an ordinary Dodge Ram ProMaster chassis and equips it with a bed, sink, cupboards and just about any other domestic feature desired. Price point begins at $65,000, which increases based on design.

Felser is a former Vail Mountain School teacher who spent thousands of hours watching YouTube videos on how to turn vans into mobile condos. The skiing and mountain biking enthusiast eventually linked up with Ramsay, his college buddy, and they transformed this rudimentary dream of living on the road into a 3,500-square-foot reality in Gypsum.

Their first ever van, in fact, was built in the Vail Mountain School parking lot.

By establishing a production facility near Rifle, these two successful entrepreneurs also expect amplifying their rental fleet to nearly 500% by 2024. 

Dave & Matt Vans co-owners Matt Felser, left, and Dave Ramsay.
Submitted / Dave & Matt Vans

“Not only do we have a popular vehicle due to its price point, due to its quality for that price point, but we also saw that paradigm shift in the way people were able to live and work,” Felser told the Post Independent in February. “International travel went away for a while, and all of a sudden, the camper van in the RV industry became a great alternative to take your family on a trip.”

To twist the logic of legendary motivational speaker Matt Foley, played by late Saturday Night Live great Chris Farley, life is better in Colorado “when you’re living in a van down by the river!” 

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