In 1955, the Andersons hired climber Jim Whittaker (b. 1929) as a paid manager. (Whittaker was the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest.) The co-op grew, changed its name to REI, and became the large retail outlet that it is today. In 1999, REI had 55 retail stores selling outdoor gear in 23 states. By 2005, the number of retail stores had grown to 71.
REI has (in 2005) more than two million active members who get a patronage refund of about 10 percent. It is the country's largest consumer cooperative.