New MEC Vancouver store in Olympic Village - Mountain Equipment Co-op

Sneak peek of the new MEC Vancouver flagship store

Vancouver is where Mountain Equipment Co-op started. Over the last few decades, the Co-op has had a few homes in this city – a VW van, room 14C in the Student Union Building at UBC, the Dominion Building, Kitsilano, Cambie, Broadway. We’ve grown from six founding members in BC to millions of members across Canada, and now it’s time to take the next step in the place where it all began.

It’s time to say hello to your new MEC Vancouver flagship store at 111 East 2nd Avenue (at Quebec Street) in Olympic Village… and to bid a fond farewell to the Broadway store that served us for 25 years.

We’re proud to be able to share this new space with members because it takes what we care about as an outdoor retail Co-op and brings it to life. We’re strong believers in sustainability, and the new store is packed with green building features. We have a goal to connect people with the outdoors, and there are community and local shout-outs throughout. We’re huge into gear and advice, and this space gives us a chance to share all that in a new way.

Thank you for decades of support – here’s what to look forward to in your new MEC Vancouver flagship store:

1. Climbing is bigger than ever

MEC wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for climbing – it was the reason the Co-op started in 1971. So we knew that incorporating climbing into a flagship store was an absolute must. Solution? Build a bouldering wall.

The wall was designed by Impact Climbing, and the custom design was inspired by one of our favourite hangouts: the Stawamus Chief in Squamish. Use the wall to try out climbing shoes or bring your own pair to do some crushing. The first batch of problems were set by MEC Ambassador Tosh Sherkat and staffers.

Heads up, members: We’re taking precautionary steps due to COVID-19, so we’re pausing use of our bouldering wall for the moment. It’s super hard for us to keep climbing holds germ-free and we take your health seriously. Thanks for your understanding.

“Having any place that brings people together to do something is community building in its essence. I’ve been gym climbing since I was 10 years old, and I love it because of the community.” – Tosh

Problems range from beginner-friendly V0 to a “very compy” Ambassador challenge.

2. There’s a sweet community space

Helping people learn new skills or getting folks inspired to get outside is something we’ve been doing for years. When we were dreaming up floor plans for Vancouver, we wanted to create a community space that didn’t feel like an afterthought stuffed in a corner.

Swing by Basecamp to see what we created – it’s our open-concept community hub where you can join a learn-to experience, chat with folks flipping through hiking guides, make connections with interesting people at community events, and spark ideas for your next outdoor trip.

The new Basecamp space in the Vancouver store

3. It’s green on the inside

We’ve been “greening” buildings for more than a decade, and sustainability is a major part of the new Vancouver store. The mass timber superstructure is what most people notice first, and this renewable building material comes with added benefits of storing carbon and being easy to reuse at the end of its life. But there are more green building features you don’t see. A few highlights:

  • Putting rain to work: The roof captures rainwater that funnels into an underground cistern to provide up to 80% of the water used for flushing toilets.
  • A renewable day in the neighbourhood: We’re connected to the innovative Neighbourhood Energy Utility system, which recovers heat from untreated urban wastewater (a sanitized way of saying sewage). It’s renewable and doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.
  • Safe for salmon: This building is certified as Salmon-Safe, thanks to its progressive water management practices. It’s only the second Salmon-Safe urban site in BC – MEC Head Office was the first.
  • Less is more: This space is designed to use almost one-third less energy than the standards set out by the national energy code for buildings. Some of the largest savings come from high-efficiency heating and cooling systems.

Just a few of the mass timber supports at the new MEC Vancouver store

4. … and it’s green on the outside

It wouldn’t be MEC without a hefty dose of green. In the back alley, we’ve put in bird-friendly and Salmon-Safe landscaping with native and naturalized species, some of which are fruit-bearing to give foraging birds a place to snack. Plus, there are a couple of tiny nesting boxes. Up top, there’s an extensive green roof.

5. Mountains are front and centre

Mountains: we love them. We want people to start thinking about their next alpine adventure before they even step inside, so there’s metal mountain artwork front and centre. Anyone who loves peaks as much as we do will want to know where they’re from – it’s the Freshfield Icefield in the Rockies, north of Golden, by Vancouver-based outdoor photographer Jordan Manley.

Mountain design on outside of MEC Vancouver store

Mountains are part of the store entrance

6. We’re recognizing where we live

Once you step inside, you’ll see a permanent land acknowledgement to recognize the Indigenous lands we work and play on – something we also did at our MEC Toronto flagship store. As you make your way through the store, you’ll also find a profile of local outdoor leader Myia Antone of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), and the legend of the Two Sisters.

7. You’ve got options

Transportation-minded members, take note: our new location is just as easy to get to as our old Broadway store. If you’re taking transit, the new MEC Vancouver is just a 7-minute walk from Main Street-Science World Station, and lots of buses (3, 8, 19, 84) drop you almost at the front door. If you’re biking, you can roll in via separated bike lanes on Quebec Street. If you’re coming by car, there are three levels of parking, including 16 electric vehicle charging spots.

8. There are secret murals

Even if you don’t drive to the store, you’ll want to peek in the parkade. We asked Vancouver-based artist Jessa Gilbert to create two massive murals – one is a view from Kits, the other is the North Shore’s rich green rainforest. “These murals are a way to celebrate Vancouver,” she says.

“When I moved here, I was completely awe-struck by the mountains, the scale of the terrain, and the density and the textures of the forest here. I hope when people see the piece, it feels playful and can inspire them to get outside.”

Along with being a muralist, Jessa is an MEC Ambassador, backcountry guide and a freshly certified scissor lift operator in order to reach the top of those enormous walls. “Painting a mural is a lot more of a physical and logistical challenge than people might realize.”

9. We rolled in some history

We’ve done a lot since 1971, so it felt right to recognize how far we’ve come in the new store. As you wander through the new space, keep an eye out for a few historic highlights from the last few decades, and get the scoop on why a VW van is parked inside the store (hint: it’s got an old-school store connection).

Getting the van into the store is a whole other story, which involved removing the rear fender and roof rack, folding in the sideview mirrors, and squeezing through the front doors with about an inch to spare on either side. Phew.

10. There’s a better bike and ski shop space

Part of loving your gear is maintaining your gear, so we wanted to build out our new bike and ski shop. It’s now a large, welcoming space that allows for smooth drop-offs, pick-ups and payment of your bike tune-up or ski waxing. You’ll see mechanics and ski techs in action from the floor, and there’s an even bigger bike and ski shop behind the scenes as well.

We can’t wait to see you there – this space is awesome.

Jumping people on a dock
MEC Staffer

A Canada-wide crew of adventurers, thinkers, doers, writers, photographers and people who love the outdoors.