Wapiti Outdoors | More than a Shop - Visit Rainier
Wapiti Outdoors building exterior

Wapiti Outdoors | More than a Shop

Wapiti Outdoors is more than a coffee shop and retail store. It’s a destination unto itself and for many, a tradition. 

Recently we had a chance to talk to John Clark, owner of Wapiti Outdoors. John, what initially brought you and your wife Karlyn to Greenwater?

From left to right ,  Ryan Henry Ward, Karlyn Clark, John Clark
From left to right, Ryan Henry Ward, Karlyn Clark, John Clark. Good friend Ryan Ward is a world-renown artist and all-around jolly fellow. Many of his products are for sale in the store.

It was Labor Day weekend 2018, my wife and I were hiking at Mount Rainier National Park. We were driving back home and stopped at Wapiti to get our favorite milkshakes. My wife saw a “For Sale” sign in front of the store. We’d always loved this community and this store. This is where we come to ski, and hike. When we saw the place was for sale it was an opportunity we believed in. We were excited to have a chance to live, work, and play here.


Wapiti Woolies had a rich history in the community spanning decades, were you nervous to take over such a beloved local store?

No. The former owners (Bob and Debbie Grubb) poured their life into this store, this was their legacy. They took great care of us in the transition. We’d been coming here for so long, we knew what made the place special and was important to people. We’re here to preserve that and do what we can to keep the legacy alive for another 50 years.


What do you wish more people knew about the store?

That there is a long history here in Greenwater. Bob (Grubb the former owner) is our historian, de facto mayor, and librarian. He told us stories about this gateway town to the park. Our building that people love so much, this architecture was the original general store. The building used to be located by White River. When the river flooded the store in 1977, Bob bought it for a dollar and moved it up to the highway. People have been walking through this door with a smile on their face for a very long time. Way before it was called Wapiti this store was here. People were here in Greenwater logging, working, and making a life here.

People always ask us, “what does Wapiti mean?”  Or, “how do you pronounce Wapiti?” A Wapiti is a beautiful creature more commonly known as an elk. Greenwater has a resident elk herd that compares in size to our human population. The word Wapiti itself originated from the first peoples of the Shawnee and Cree nations used to describe the animal and their white rumps. Around the store, we just refer to them as our furry friends that love to eat our tulips in the wee hours of the morning. We don’t mind sharing, they were here first. As for the pronunciation of the word. You are on your own with that, we accept all versions here. Just do your best and do it with confidence. A bit of advice that applies to most any challenge you might be stumbling over currently.

You must stay busy. When you are able to enjoy time off, is there a trail, season or activity you most enjoy?

Well first of all we love what we do. Our customers are incredible. It almost doesn’t feel like work. We really feel connected to the people but I’d have to say that wildflower season in the park is something we won’t miss. Wildflower season is non-negotiable. We don’t miss that. We do a lot of things, ride trails, snowshoe, ski, and fish. We’re outdoor people all year long. This store and what we do is part of our life. We’re fortunate. We really appreciate the opportunity to live and work here.


We love seeing locally sourced honey and huckleberry products for sale. Are there other items from local artisans we should look for?

We just partnered with a bakery out of Black Diamond called Mama D’s Farmhouse Baking. We carry some of their incredible baked goods and you won’t believe it but their Cinnamon Rolls and Carrot Cake are gluten-free and taste amazing! Good people and their baked goods are top-notch. Next time you’re in the store you’ll have to try one of those treats, everything they make is so good. 

Wapiti Woolies is now Wapiti Outdoors, it may surprise folks to know the new name actually came from the former owners, Bob and Debby Grubb. Wapiti Woolies was originally a knitting factory. After years of knitting full-time, the Grubbs decided to switch gears. They covered up the word “knitting” on the original sign and changed it to read “Wapiti Woolies.” Bob always thought maybe someday he’d like to call the place “Wapiti Outdoors.” One day after the sale was finalized John mentioned to Bob he didn’t know what to call the store now. Bob told John he’d always meant to call the place Wapiti Outdoors. It was meant to be. And what a fitting name! It’s proximity to Crystal Mountain Resort, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Mount Rainier National Park, and the White River can you get any more outdoorsy than that? 

Come to Greenwater, slow down, stop, mask-up, and explore for a bit. Don’t cruise through town without stopping for visit.

Wapiti Woolies Historical Photos