What do you do when you hear Eddie Bauer is opening a new flagship store in San Francisco? Well, if you’re in the area, you go. That’s what I did this past Wednesday night.

Eddie Bauer is like an old friend around GearGuide HQ. We still remember the heyday of expansion ahead of other northwest retailers like REI. They had gear with cred back in the day. Heck, Eddie Bauer invented the quilted down jacket. They became the the west coast equivalent of L.L. Bean while being far more adventurous, rugged and stylish. Unfortunately, the company started chasing the elusive fashionista with broader women’s wear lines, home and bath products and a fairly substantial expansion plan that led to a Chapter 11 filing in 2009. Through a series of downsizing activities and store closings Eddie Bauer essentially disappeared from our lives.

In 2011, the company introduced a new series of products under the brand First Ascent. They hearkened back to the old days of Eddie Bauer and were designed to re-establish the outdoor cred for which the company was originally known. Eddie Bauer succeeded in our opinion and we gave their First Ascent Downlight Hoodie Pullover a Gear of the Year award.

Flash forward to this past Wednesday and our friend Eddie Bauer is back. Bigger, bolder, with new-media savvy and a whole new set of products that seem to effectively bridge between the requirements of the serious outdoors person, fitness addict and traveler. At the event, I browsed through new sub-branded products for fishing and hunting – called SportShop – adventure travel clothing – known as Travelex – and the newest gear in the First Ascent line. The store and the gear are impressive overall with solid attention to detail, bright fashion-forward designs and exciting color combos. We tweeted and an internet-connected vending machine dispensed the latest Eddie Bauer gear. And the store and HQ staff were knowledgeable and personable, able to answer questions about the products and strategy.

Welcome back Eddie Bauer. We missed you.

If you’re in San Francisco, visit their new flagship store at 128 Post Street. I think you’ll like it.

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear story from GearGuide. And thanks to Backbone Media for the invitation to the event.