We recently used a entrance pass to the Columbia Employee Store in Richmond, CA. The pass was given to us as a workplace perk and was valid for anytime in a 2-3 weeks window. Before this day, I've never heard of the Columbia Employee store (though I have heard of the Columbia outlet store), and I'm guessing the reason you're reading this is because you haven't either.
Driving to Richmond is fairly simple for most people, though it is in the North Bay, so I is quite a drive for those of you living in Santa Clara/San Jose area. Even on the weekend, traffic at the Toll Plaza of the Bay Bridge can be horrendous! So check the traffic before you leave.
The main entrance of the Columbia Employee Store from the street is NOT OBVIOUS and there isn't visible signage until after you drive past the small security booth. Take a look at this Google Maps rendering to show the entrance: https://www.google.com/maps/...
Upon pulling up to the security booth, they'll take down your license plate and then they'll let you in. No charge for parking. They have plenty of parking to the left with just a short walk down to their store.
What to Expect
When you enter the store, you'll be greeted by store employees who ask to verify your pass. So remember to bring identification like a badge at your company. If it's your first time, they'll tell you that everything is basically 30-60% off retail prices. The picture up top depict around 1/5 of the store and it's split up by their different segments. Columbia brand, Mountain Hard Wear brand, prAna brand, shoes.
The Columbia brand is mostly what you'd expect at the outlet, and the price may be similar. The difference is there were items I found at the Employee store that I've never seen at the outlets. I personally love shopping at Columbia for everyday weekend clothing, but oddly didn't find anything interesting.
Mountain Hard Wear brand is their hardcore outdoor brand. They provide everything from big heavy jackets to lighter water proof jackets, to water resistant jackets. On the other side (not pictured), they also sell snow related gear like gloves of all thicknesses, sleeping bags, socks, climbing gear. The product in this section of the store felt very high quality, though the original retail price also reflects their quality.
prAna brand is their Yoga line of clothing. This clothes is generally thinner and more form fitting, but still very comfortable. The prices for this line were also fairly expensive.
What We Bought
We mostly ended up purchasing several articles of clothing from Mountain Hard Wear (mainly light-weight, but warm jackets) and prAna (light casual weekend clothing). Though we've never heard of either brands before shopping at the employee store, we took a chance. The Mountain Hard Wear clothing turned out to be warmer than expected, but the logo in a highly visible location isn't an ideal one. That being said, the jackets are both very functional and serves a good layer for hikes and slightly rainy days.