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Sunday, September 15, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Eddie Bauer: Dinnerware, Decor Are Joining Denim, Down

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS - Eddie Bauer Inc., known for its denim and down, is branching into dinnerware and decor with the opening here of its first home-specialty store.

Called the Eddie Bauer Home Collection, the store seeks to furnish the homes of the same customers Eddie Bauer has been outfitting for the outdoors for more than 70 years.

Nationwide, the company operates more than 200 retail stores. More customers, perhaps, are familiar with the company through its mail-order business, which annually sends out 60 million catalogs. But Eddie Bauer Inc. traces its beginnings in retail back to 1920, when founder Eddie Bauer, an avid sportsman, opened a sporting goods store in Seattle.

Among the innovations that made a name for the proprietor in the years that followed was a goose-down insulated jacket. He is credited with creating America's first.

The Eddie Bauer label spread during World War II when the company sold down-filled gear to the U.S. government for use by pilots and flight crews. After the war, the company says, it got so many requests for down products from former military personnel that it published its first mail-order catalog.

"Our real history is in keeping people warm," said Wayne Badovinus, president of Eddie Bauer. "That was our reason for being for many years - our down-filled outerwear and long underwear and very functional cold-weather kinds of product."

Coats and parkas remain staples at Eddie Bauer. The home store

takes the company's "warm and cozy" theme inside. Beds are thick with blankets. Wool rugs are spread across the floor.

The store also carries outdoorsy goods reminiscent of simpler times - a dinner bell, for example.

Sales at the month-old store "have exceeded our expectations," said Cory Strait, vice president of Eddie Bauer Home Collection, from the company's headquarters in Redmond.

Other Home Collection stores are planned, with the next opening expected in November at the Oak Brook Shopping Center in suburban Chicago. The company expects to have 15 Home Collection stores by the end of next year.

Strait said the home-store concept was not designed for the New York or Los Angeles markets.

"In fact," she said, "from the day that we started working on this, we talked about a Missouri picnic as being the kind of feel that we wanted. And, happily, we ended up in Missouri right out of the blocks."

The debut of the home-store concept coincides with major retail expansion for Eddie Bauer stores. The company opened 59 retail apparel stores last year, with 30 more to be added by the end of this year.

It recently introduced a third retail concept - a store called All Week Long based on a mail-order specialty it started in 1987.

The idea behind All Week Long is to provide women who buy Eddie Bauer styles for their weekends with clothing that they can wear to work and other commitments throughout the week. One All Week Long store opened this summer in Portland, Ore. Others are planned for Oak Brook and Salt Lake City.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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