YETI’s Foray into Brick and Mortar Carves a Path to Adventure

The interior of the building reflects YETI’s rough-and-tumble culture, sporting salvaged brick and reclaimed wood throughout.

The interior of the building reflects YETI’s rough-and-tumble culture, sporting salvaged brick and reclaimed wood throughout.

Raw Durability

The building retrofitted for YETI’s flagship seems tailor-made for the brand. A survivor of extreme weather, the historic 1930s warehouse was one of the only structures to withstand Austin’s infamous 1935 flood. The building’s robust concrete-frame interior emphasized its durability, and the team preserved and expressed this character.

“Given the grittiness of the building and YETI’s rough-and-tumble culture, we wanted to augment the rawness that was there,” Rabke recalls. “It made sense to let the story of the building be evident, so we left the concrete frame and brick walls exposed for texture and salvaged as much of the brick as possible.”

Changes in use over the decades made for haphazard floors and columns, and items torn out over time affected wall finishes. Now, the back wall sports the project’s salvaged brick, and reclaimed wood lines the floor and much of the wall space.

Concrete columns around the music concert stage that extended through to the basement had to be structurally reinforced. To accomplish this, the team bolted C-channels made of steel to either side of the concrete columns on both sides of the stage.

“It’s an industrial cladding but it actually has a really beautiful, retrofit quality to it, which makes it cool detailing,” Rabke says. “And because they keep the stage pretty active with concerts, acoustics became important, so we added coffers in perforated rusted metal panels that have acoustic baffles on top.”

Part of the interior is clad in black sheet-plate steel with a treatment that alerts visitors to the building’s history. “We etched a line in the panels where the water had risen to in the space during the 1935 flood,” Horton explains. “Above the line the panels are black, but a rusted finish below the line looks like the panels were affected by the flood.” An enlarged historic photo shows downtown Austin covered in water but the building still standing during the deluge, and an interpretive plaque in the back of the space explains the event.

The Great Outdoors

Even with the exhibits and events, the space would be hard-pressed to convey YETI’s outdoor lifestyle brand if it was left as an opaque, enclosed warehouse. “We wanted to create strong connections to the outdoors and have passersby see the activity and be drawn inside, so we expanded the experience to the street,” Rabke explains. “It sounds like a simple thing, but creating visual connections and activity at the street level was one of the most successful moves.”

The warehouse’s sturdy concrete frame allowed the designers to remove brick, add expansive windows and create a large community porch. To reinforce the space as a hip hangout, the porch hosts YETI’s indoor/outdoor bar, which is secured at night by hydraulically operated flip-up doors. Made of open-air steel-bar grate, the doors serve as a shading structure for bar patrons and provide detail and depth to the exterior when open.

Inside, a series of transparent accordion folding doors protect the conditioned space from outside air. When the weather is temperate, the accordion doors easily fold to expand the entire space to the outdoors, and they allow staff to accommodate overflow crowds during events.

“The project is a unique blend of retail, exhibits and experience that captures the spirit of YETI’s clientele,” Rabke says. “It’s very interactive the minute you walk in, and the immersive nature of the displays, events and bar keeps you entertained and in the space.”

While some think that physical retail locations won’t endure as e-commerce continues to gain traction, Horton has a different perspective. “Brick and mortar spaces will thrive as long as the brand has an important message and retailers find ways to tell their story,” he says. “This space is a great example of that—it really engages the community.”

Retrofit Team

Architects: Lake|Flato, Austin, Texas, and Perkins+Will, Austin
Brand Development: McGarrah Jessee, Austin
Project Management: EPIC Management Resources LLC, Houston
General Contractor: Franklin-Alan LLC, Austin
MEP Engineer: Big Red Dog, Austin
Landscape Architect: dwg., Austin
Lighting Designer: David Nelson & Associates LLC, Littleton, Colo.


Perforated, Rolled, Bar Grate and Corten Steel: Sarabi Studio
Tin Ceiling Tile: Chelsea Decorative Metal Co.
Moonstone Antique Mirrors: SPANCraft Glass
Wire Mesh: McNICHOLS
Plastic Laminate: Nevamar, Panolam Surface Systems
Paint: Benjamin Moore and Rust-Oleum
Floor Tile: Stone Source
Wall Tile: Stone Source and Walker Zanger
Windows: United States Aluminum Storefront Windows; Guardian Sunguard Advanced Architectural Glass; Carvart Frosted Glass
Hydraulically Operated Flip-up Doors: Crown Inc. Hydraulic Single Swing door
Accordion Doors: Euro-Wall Euro-C5 Vista Fold thermally broken aluminum folding door system; Finish: Dark Bronze Anodized
Lighting: LED Lighting Inc.; Zaneen; Juno Lighting Group; and Modern Forms

Photos: Casey Dunn Photography

About the Author

KJ Fields
KJ Fields writes about design, sustainability and health from Portland, Ore.

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