1ST PLACE SPORTS
Five locations in the Jacksonville, FL, metro area: Baymeadows, Jacksonville Beach, St. Johns, San Marco, Tapestry Park
Key Personnel: Doug and Jane Alred, Owners; Brian Doyle, Director of Operations; Stephen Cox, Chris McCaffrey, Paige Pohler, Becca Kerr, Kelly Parete — Managers
History: 1st Place Sports was started as a single door in 1978 and has since expanded to five locations. There is also an event side of the business that produces about 75 races annually, handled by Doug Alred, Stuart Toomey, Ryann Lohman and Tony Costanza.
In Their Words: “Our staff makes our stores unique. We are all part of a close-knit group and everyone feels like family. We have several employees who have been with 1st Place Sports for 12 to 28 years.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Receiving the award is quite exciting to the staff. Last year when we won Store of the Year with all our staff together to hear the announcement was the highlight of our year. So much excitement and pride was expressed that night and continues to this day.”
A RUNNER’S MIND
Three stores in the California Bay Area: San Francisco, Burlingame, Los Altos • www.arunnersmind.com
Key Personnel: Monte Keleher, Owner; Eileen Urtz, GM; Nick Kovaleski, Director of Operations; Derek Wun, Footwear Buyer; Carlos Guerra, Neal Klein, Chance Kinney, Morgan Meade, Store Managers; Sebastian Lizard, ARM Mascot
History: Founded in 2010 in Burlingame, opened in San Francisco in 2013 and in Los Altos in 2017.
In Their Words: “From our youngest part-time team member to our most seasoned leader, everyone works the sales floor together, collectively striving to be the best running store in all the land. Our motto, ‘Movement is Life,’ drives everything we do and fuels our desire to be better every single day. We bring our best selves to the job, but also our most fun selves. Laughter powers us through everything we do — in the back stock rooms, on the sales floor and out on our runs. We love what we do and we bring that sense of fun to our community.”
What the Award Means to Them: “We are incredibly honored to receive this award, especially since it started with being nominated by our running community. At ARM we are driven by our passion to help people move and exercise in order to live out their best lives. Running is what draws the ARM team together and providing the absolute best experience for our guests is what feeds our passion. This award not only validates our hard work over the past year, but inspires us to work harder and show up in new and better ways for our community.”
AARDVARK SPORTS SHOP
Bethlehem, PA • www.aardvarksportsshop.com
Key Personnel: Bruce Haines, Owner; Jon Notary, GM; Sheena Wells, Store Manager; Craig Sheckler, Marketing Manager; Andy Wells, Team Vark Co-Director; Kate Egging, Team Vark Co-Director; Brian Schafer, Receiving and Scheduling; Sue Henry, Apparel Buyer; Suzanne Moore, Website
History: Aardvark was founded in 1984 and is celebrating its 37th year in business with its most successful year to date. The store has moved four times in those years, although each storefront has been within a few blocks of each other. The current location on Main Street has been home for over a decade.
In Their Words: “We’ve remained a steadfast component of the local running scene and run industry for 37 years, which by itself is quite an accomplishment and a feat that differentiates us from most. Our shop has lived through and observed changing and challenging times, learned from mistakes as well as from successes, and along the way we’ve grown up and matured.
“We take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Fun is one of our Core Values and we take it to heart. Our larger-than-life blue mascot, Aandy Aardvark, our “Aardvark Drama Club” that has a blast creating videos and photo shoots with Aandy, our cheer stations at races, our staff’s extracurricular book club and our ever-growing Team Vark road and trail run groups are just a few examples of this. We all possess a genuine passion for an active, healthy lifestyle and a sincere desire to share this with others, whether they’re runners, walkers or simply in need of a comfortable, quality, well-fitting shoe.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It is certainly a much-appreciated and wonderful acknowledgment of all the tremendous work performed by our caring, encouraging and knowledgeable staff on a daily basis, as well as our decades worth of dedication to establishing Aardvark as our region’s foremost running and walking specialty shop.”
BIG RIVER RUNNING COMPANY
Three stores in St. Louis, MO: West County, South City, University City
Key Personnel: Kipp Keller, Matt Helbig, Owners; Mike Morey, COO/Head Buyer; Stephanie Cornyn, GM; Katie Helbig, Marketing/Community Programs
History: Founded in 2006.
In Their Words: “Two things that are special and deeply meaningful to us are that we offer all of our training programs for free (5K, 10K, half- and full-marathon and speed work) and our Big River Gives Back program supports local charities. In a typical year, around 1700 people take part in our programs. Big River Gives Back is our formal charitable giving program to support local charities’ important work. We donate 10 percent of sales of our Big River branded merchandise (our most popular apparel) and recent recipients have been the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation and Mission St. Louis.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This past year we learned that together as a staff and a community we could get through anything. The pandemic has further fueled our hearts to continue top-notch programming and charitable giving and engaging with our community in meaningful ways. Community has been a pillar of our company since our inception, but this year further proved it, and an award like Best Running Stores is a positive affirmation of the work we are doing to better our community.”
CHARLES RIVER RUNNING
Norwood, MA • www.charlesriverrunning.com
Key Personnel: Charlotte Walsh, Owner and Operator; Jim Henry, GM; Olive the Store Dog, Minister of Sniffs
History: Located in the heart of Norwood Center, the store opened in June 2012.
In Their Words: “Our running group named ‘Thursday Strong’ keeps this store relevant and talked about. Our runners and walkers literally light up the streets every Thursday night, no matter what the conditions. They are a hardy bunch, always bringing new folks into the group. Our message is simple: All movement is good and forward is a pace.”
What the Award Means to Them: “We’ve been consistently putting forth the effort, year after year. Recognition from the industry fills us with pride and gratitude.”
CHARM CITY RUN
Six stores: Annapolis, Baltimore (Fells Point), Bel Air, Columbia, Frederick, Timonium, MD
Key Personnel: Josh Levinson, Founder/Owner; Tom Mansfield, COO; Will Murdoch, Events Director; Brian Nasuta, Footwear Director; Lisa Costello, Apparel Director; Kelly Maurer, Training Groups Director; Kate Fenwick, Live. Give. Run Foundation Director; Bill Frazier, Annapolis Store Manager; Jessica Ceiri, Baltimore Store Manager; Matt Milner, Columbia Store Manager, Ben Pickett, Bel Air Store Manager; John Leonardis, Frederick Store Manager; Dawn Litrenta, Timonium Store Manager
History: Charm City Run was founded in 2002 and currently has six stores, an events management business, a mobile store and training groups.
In Their Words: “What makes Charm City Run unique is its people. Full-time employees have been here an average of eight years. Staff stability and longevity allows us to be consistent with our message and service. Our customers know what we are about and what we stand for. We have a lot of fun, but there is a work ethic and an attitude that exists here and the result is a lot of high-quality, energetic, positive people that give their best every day to each other and to the community. This is evident by the energy on the floor, our customer service and being awarded one of the best small business employers by the Baltimore Sun over the last 10 years.
“Our structure is unique as well. We have six running specialty locations, an event management business that directs, produces and times over 120 endurance sporting events per year and a training business that prepares over 2000 runners annually. Lastly, our Live. Give. Run Foundation has donated more than $1 million in the last 20 years. It provides educational opportunities for kids, helps to protect and restore the environment, supports missions that provide housing, food and services to those that need help and encourages people to be active.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It means that hard work matters, that the little things matter and that when you wake up every day to inspire and move the human spirit one sole at a time, people take notice. Receiving the award is affirmation and it gives our team a brief moment to reflect on what it takes to be recognized among a group of operators that are very good at what they do. There are so many good people in this business doing great work.”
THE COLORADO RUNNING COMPANY
Colorado Springs, CO • www.corunco.com
Key Personnel: Jeff Tarbert, Owner; Lisa Coe, Outreach Manager; John O’Niel, Ordering; Drew Vidano, Inventory Manager
History: Marathoner and running enthusiast Jeff Tarbert founded CRC in 2000 in the heart of Colorado Springs across from Colorado College. The store has since changed its location to the UCCS University Village.
In Their Words: “The Colorado Running Company prides itself on a couple of things. The first is being a veteran-owned small business. [We] set out to put a shoe on every foot in Colorado Springs 21 years ago and that has become a difficult goal to accomplish with the rapid growth of our community. But nonetheless, CRC strives to keep the community healthy and moving.
“The second is in educating our clients rather than pushing sales. The staff first listens to each individual experience, then applies their knowledge and educates each client about shoes, apparel, accessories, etc., to make sure they can make the most informed decisions possible while working toward their goals. Each client that walks through the door, calls or contacts CRC in any way has the full attention, knowledge and excellent customer service for which we have become well known.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Everything. We know this is an overused answer, but being voted as one of the best by our community is an extremely high honor we hold very dear. Our staff and owner have worked hard to be an asset and blessing to the community since our founding. To see such a tangible affirmation of this desire is encouraging, especially as we tried to tactfully navigate the service industry during COVID.”
DAVE’S RUNNING SHOP
Four locations in northwest Ohio: Delta, Sylvania, Perrysburg and Findlay
Key Personnel: Mason family: Dave Mason, Sandy Mason, James Mason, Michelle Mason, Matt Mason, Missy Mason. Other key staff: Dave Moore, Ryan Snow, Liz Schloss, Deanna Kiesel, LaRoy Martinez, Steve Hart, Eric Kramer, Jeff Gibbs, Bob Masters, Mackenzie Chojnacky, Evan Gaynor, Deb Wagner, Susan Ruff, Jason Magers, Teri Brant, Clint McCormick, Aaron Z. Haydu, Patrick Gallagher
History: Dave’s Running Shop, founded in 1973 by Dave Mason, is the oldest – and the only locally- and family-owned – running store in Ohio. Three generations of Masons continue to support the communities the business serves.
In Their Words: “We view ourselves as a team and we pride ourselves on working as a team. Our current staff averages over seven years on the floor, ranging in longevity from more than 40 years with us to just a few months for the new hire of a longtime customer. While we love selling shoes, gear and running accessories, we also maintain a strong focus on providing solutions and services that facilitate and drive the running lifestyle in our area.
“We truly strive to be not only the go-to source for running shoes and a health and fitness lifestyle leader, but also a bedrock for our running community and lifestyle footwear patrons alike.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Having our altruistic goals for serving our communities recognized with this award helps invigorate our steady drive and focus and assists us in outreach to new residents and new runners.”
FITniche (NOW FLEET FEET TAMPA)
Three locations in Florida: Brandon, Flatwoods, Lakeland
Key Personnel: Jenn Misiewicz, Buying and Store Manager; Brandi Holmes, HR and GM; Wendy Miller, Buying and Store Manager; Ashley Kincaid, Marketing and Community Outreach
History: FITniche was founded in October 2005 and was acquired by Fleet Feet in September 2021.
In Their Words: “As with almost everyone in the run specialty business, it is our staff and the way they work together and treat our customers that makes all the difference.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It is an extremely nice and honorable sendoff to know that our staff earned us a spot in the Best Running Stores again. As our last year as FITniche, we know that we share this honor with an outstanding group of stores.”
FLEET FEET DAVENPORT
Davenport, IA • www.fleetfeetdavenport.com
Key Personnel: Phil and Jackie Young, Owners
History: The store opened in March 2016 and is located in Davenport, part of the larger Quad Cities, and Phil’s hometown.
In Their Words: “We endeavor to love and serve the people of this community beyond providing good customer service. We’re relentless in our pursuit to problem solve and provide solutions, whether at the fit stool or as an ever-increasing pillar of and in our community.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It’s validating, surely, and we’re honored to receive such recognition, but it functions more as a checkpoint for us. The degree to which our customers are providing relatively unsolicited reviews, recommendations and nominations for national awards serves as a marker for us to understand whether or not we are still working in line with our vision, mission and core values.”
Fleet Feet Fort Wayne
Fort Wayne, IN • www.fleetfeetfortwayne.com
Key Personnel: Kevin Croy Owner/President; Jeanice Croy Owner/CEO; Maggie Croy-Schuck, Director of Operations; Sara Miller, Training Programs Director/Coach; Samantha Perkins, Retail Experience Supervisor
History: Fleet Feet Fort Wayne was founded in August, 2013 and is located in the southwest region of Fort Wayne and Aboite Township. Currently one location with the hope to open a second location by 2022 on Fort Wayne Northside. Jeanice Croy, Kevin Croy and Maggie Croy-Schuck started with one goal in mind — to build a locally owned running store in northeast Indiana that provided an inclusive fitness environment. They knew that based on national surveys and publications the city of Fort Wayne has had the reputation of being one of the unhealthier cities in the United States. From the first day Fleet Feet Fort Wayne set out to change all that by developing numerous training programs and events that specifically focused on the beginning runner or walker.
In Their Words: “Our store is unique and has become a sort of gathering place for the community and for anyone trying to improve their lifestyle. Whether it is overcoming an injury or wanting to receive guidance in getting back in shape, Fleet Feet Fort Wayne has been the community’s first source of reference. We almost feel that we have become the ‘Starbucks for Fitness.’ This was especially true when we were forced to close for a few months in the early months of the pandemic.
“Our staff stepped in to help bring some comfort and ease the pain of the pandemic. We organized numerous virtual activities to help take people’s mind off of the crisis. Like RunGo, a free running bingo like challenge/contest that people could do from home. Other virtual activities and challenges included The Everest Challenge (running as a team, participants had to run the distance of the height of Mount Everest) and The Kiss The Bricks Challenge, where each team had to Run 500 miles collectively within a certain time period while maintaining social distance. Fleet Feet Fort Wayne also donated more than 70 pairs of new Hoka shoes to a COVID unit at a local hospital so the medical team did not have to take their shoes home.
“Even prior to COVID-19, Fleet Feet Fort Wayne has always maintained its community involvement to where our store has been a thread within the fabric of so many people’s lives. In fact we have had several wedding proposals within the past eight years. People refer to themselves as a part of the Fleet Feet Family.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Fleet Feet Fort Wayne’s staff and owners are very thankful and humbled to receive this award. This award reaffirms that we are maintaining our commitment to our core values in maintaining a superior retail and fitness experience to our customers.”
Fleet Feet Fox Valley
Appleton, WI • www.fleetfeetfoxvalley.com
Key Personnel: Co-operated by Jeremy and Leah Schapiro
History: Jeremy and Leah Schapiro moved to Wisconsin and opened their doors in November 2009, 13 years ago. Fleet Feet Fox Valley is one of three franchise locations in Wisconsin. Jeremy had years of community involvement from a career in the operations at the YMCA and the American Red Cross in Youth Programming and eventually management at Fleet Feet Chicago. Leah’s involvement with Fleet Feet began more than 20 years ago as a volunteer and active member of her local running community. An eight-time marathon finisher and four-time Ironman, she now urges people to consider the impact that non-running choices can make to improve fitness success. Leah formerly worked at the United Way, the American Red Cross (where Jeremy and Leah met) and has held many non-profit positions locally, including sitting on a United Way Impact Area council and local Girls on the Run Board.
In Their Words: “Our goal is to bring resources to the community through programming, premier products and an always-current understanding of how people can benefit from a healthy lifestyle. Two key frameworks, Servant Leadership and Exceptional Customer Experience, drive everything we do in the store and beyond the store walls. Creating an environment where our team knows they are valued and critical to the everyday decisions and function of the business is paramount.
“The positive, engaging culture trickles down to how customers are treated in the store. Our team is empowered to make decisions on behalf of customers and to put experience ahead of sales. When people trust our team, purchases and loyalty to our programs follows.”
What the Award Means to Them: “During what has been such a hard season for everyone, this award feels particularly meaningful. To have their efforts acknowledged and honored in this way reinforces the idea that putting people first is the right thing to do. And that what we do everyday matters — not just in finding the right tool to solve a problem, but also being there to encourage and celebrate customers’ and program participants’ accomplishments.”
FLEET FEET GREENVILLE
Key Personnel: Kendra and Chris Loignon, Owners; Rachel Craft, GM; Andrew Ciaccia, Footwear Buyer; Nick Ciaccia, Retail Experience Manager; Justin Safin, Inventory Controller; Paige Murrow, Apparel Buyer and Merchandiser
History: The store opened in October 2017.
In Their Words: “Our mission and vision are at the core of our culture. And the saying goes, ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’ Our vision at Fleet Feet Greenville is to S.E.R.V.E. This means be humble servants, educate our customers, run together as a community, value the act of giving and empower our community.
“We live out each part of our vision daily, but we really enjoy the act of giving. Each month we have a local charity partner that we educate our community on through group runs and social channels. We will also donate a portion of our monthly sales to those community partners each month. In the single act of giving, we get to live out the five points of our vision. There is no better feeling than giving to those what has been given to you.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Blessed, humbled and honored to be among the best in the industry. We do not do what we do for the accolades or recognition. If anything, we tend to shy away from it at times. The culture in our store is customer and community first. Each day the team comes to work with warm hearts ready to make a difference in a person’s day. We are just thankful we get to use running as the generator for all things good in our community. We will continue to stick to our mission and vision to make an impact on our community for the good. At four-years old, we feel we are only at mile four of a marathon and the best we have to offer is still to come.”
Fleet Feet Hartford
Key Personnel: Carrie and Stephanie Blozy, Owners; Josh Welch, Natalie Carpenter and Nick Hegarty, Managers
History: Alice Gold founded the business in 1997 as a women’s sports store (Fleet Feet for Women) and it went co-ed in 1999. The Blozy sisters bought the store in June 2008 and expanded its footprint from 1500-square feet to 3600-square feet in 2010.
In Their Words: “Like all of the best running stores, we offer an exceptional customer experience, great product selection and do a whole lot of good in our community. What makes us unique are the people who work for us and shop with us. There are no other people we’d rather surround ourselves with.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It is a testament to the passion, energy and hard work of our staff who have been the lifeblood of the store during the pandemic. They are runners, mountain bikers, Cross Fitters, coaches, prosthetic and physical therapy students, moms, dads and some of the most patient people we’ve ever met. As much as we tell them they are amazing, it doesn’t mean as much as when the industry and the community recognize them as being one of the best.”
Fleet Feet Huntsville
Two locations in Alabama: Madison, Huntsville
Key Personnel: Dink and Suzanne Taylor, Owners; Alan Taylor, Inventory Manager; Dianna Cioppi, Triathlon Training Director; Barbara Parker, Apparel Buyer; Kevin Stegen, Footwear Buyer; Donna Ruiz, Essentials Buyer; Jamie Morrow, Floor Manager; Traci Gillespie, Business Development and Medical Outreach; Jack Campbell, Marketing Coordinator
History: Dink and Suzanne Taylor founded Fleet Feet Huntsville in 2004 and the business has since grown to two locations, the second in Madison, AL.
In Their Words: “What makes us unique is our commitment to the community. We support almost every local charity and event in Huntsville and Madison. Our staff and team are known for volunteering at events as well. Things have changed since COVID, but life is starting to return to normal. We are so excited to see events and races coming back to the community.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Having received this award every year is so important to us. It’s great recognition for our staff and their commitment to our community. We would not be successful without the support of our staff and the community. They make us who we are.”
FLEET FEET MOUNT PLEASANT
Three stores: Mount Pleasant, Summerville, Carnes Crossroads, VA
Key Personnel: Chris and Amy Minkel, Owners; Wade Wiley, Co-owner and GM; Sarah Harriman, Store Manager; Eryn Groh, Store Manager; Justin Hart, Store Manager
History: After moving from North Carolina, Chris and Amy Minkel opened the doors at Fleet Feet Mount Pleasant on March 14, 2013. Their goal was to make an impact on their new community by supporting everyone who wanted live a healthy, active lifestyle by being a resource for all running, walking and general fitness needs. In July 2014, Wade Wiley joined the team as a part-time team member and quickly grew into a full-time leadership role. While the Mount Pleasant location was thriving, it became evident that to serve the community better an additional location was needed in the Summerville area. In a beautiful, historic house, Fleet Feet Summerville found its home in the heart of downtown. As Summerville and the surrounding community continued to have record growth, they opened Fleet Feet Carnes Crossroads in August 2021.
In Their Words: “Our focus on customer experience, community outreach and the culture of our team is what sets us apart. Our team thrives on providing the best customer experience possible. By developing relationships rather than just facilitating transactions, they provide education, encouragement and support. We truly believe it is a privilege to serve not only our customers and community, but also each other.”
What the Award Means to Them: “To be recognized on a national level for all the dedication, passion and hard work that the team shows every day is extremely rewarding and humbling. We are so honored to receive this designation and to be in the company of so many amazing retailers across the country.”
Fleet Feet Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA • www.fleetfeetpittsburgh.com
Key Personnel: Deb Doyle, Operating Partner; Tim Lyman, Director of Training Programs; Angela Shine, Marketing Director; Kyle Pusateri-Nilson, Assistant Store Manager; Justin Dilanni, Assistant Store Manager-Operations; Travis Myers-Arrigoni, Retail Experience Manager
History: Located in the South Hills of Pennsylvania, the store opened its doors in October 2001 and was purchased by Bob Shooer in September 2007. In November 2021, Shooer retired and handed the reins to his business partner and longtime GM, Deb Doyle.
In Their Words: “Our amazing team and our grassroots involvement in our community make the store unique. We incorporate our core values into everything we do, both inside the store and out in our community. We truly believe that it is a privilege to serve, whether that is listening to the needs of our customers in our store, sponsoring and participating in local races or supporting participants of all abilities in our training programs.”
What the Award Means to Them: “We are honored to have been nominated for this award. Our staff is so deserving of this and it gives them a great sense of pride to be recognized as a Best Running Stores Award recipient. It is validation of our efforts and continued commitment to always put our best foot forward and bring our best selves to everything we do. This award is also something we share with our local running community, for without their support we would not be able to do what we do. These are challenging times, but we feel very fortunate that we have been able to serve the needs of our customers and our community.”
FLEET FEET RICHMOND
Two Stores: Westhampton and Short Pump, VA
Key Personnel: Jason and Jeff Wells, Owners
History: The Westhampton location launched in June 2014, and a year later the Short Pump store opened. Both have since been expanded.
In Their Words: “Our family, Ashley, Jason and Jeff Wells, have been in the Fleet Feet business since 2002, so collectively we have a lot of experience owning and operating specialty run shops. The Richmond area running community is an outstanding culture of all types of runners who are so very active. We’ve been able to meet their needs and enjoy creating great shopping experiences for them.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This award means so much to our staff because it indicates that their dedication is working. We get up every day with the goal to make a difference in our customers’ lives. We strive to make our community a better place for all. It’s nice to be acknowledged that we are doing something right.”
FLEET FEET ROANOKE
Key Personnel: Blaine and Robin Lewis, Owners; Crystal Kennedy, Retail Experience Manager
History: Blaine and Robin Lewis moved to Robin’s hometown of Roanoke to open Fleet Feet in March 2003. At the time there was hardly a running community in Roanoke, but over the past 18 years Fleet Feet Roanoke has helped to build a booming running and walking community. During this time, the store has grown from a 1900-square-foot location into the 6000-square-foot building it is in today.
In Their Words: “We’re more than a running and walking store. We’re what we call a ‘people’ store. No matter who walks through our doors, we serve them and help them to the best of our ability. That is what has built us into a successful business. What makes us unique is also our team. We staff 15 full-time and three part-time employees. We are committed to our team and offer full benefits.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This award means so much. The past year-and-a-half has presented many challenges. Our team has worked hard to keep our business going and to keep our community moving and connected. It’s a testament to our team’s hard work throughout the year. It’s great for the team to see how we stack up within the industry. We train our staff to be the best every single day, and it’s nice to see them get recognized. It makes the busy Saturdays, overtime with a late customer, early morning at training programs, all worth it. We are so appreciative of the recognition.”
FLEET FEET ROCHESTER
Armory, Ridgeway and Victor, NY, plus Fleet Feet Buffalo, NY
Key Personnel: David “Boots” Boutillier and Ellen Brenner, Owners; Barb Boutillier, GM; Sean Hendrick, Special Projects Director
History: The first store opened in the Rochester town of Brighton in July 2004. Ridgeway opened in 2011, Buffalo was purchased in 2014 and Victor opened in 2019. The Rochester Armory location moved from Brighton to Rochester in 2014.
In Their Words: “What makes us unique is that we have a race company that offers a plethora of races, from road to trail and shorter distance to longer. Plus, we were able to produce events during COVID with many New York-style restrictions. We are also hardy in Western NY — we are the snowiest area in the continental U.S., but the runners and walkers here get out even in sub-zero conditions and two feet of snow. Our largest run groups are often in the winter. With four stores across 90 miles of western New York, each has its own personality while maintaining the same quality and high customer service experience.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Our staff works so hard to provide exceptional experiences, especially given the state restrictions our stores were under this past year. Our staff prides itself on their knowledge and service and this award is a testament to all the work they do.”
Fleet Feet Syracuse
Two locations in Syracuse, NY: East Syracuse and Clay
Key Personnel: Chris Braker, Operating Partner; Rachel Murphy, Marketing Director; Marcia Palamara, Purchasing Manager. Retail Experience Managers: Kenny Deloff, Dawn Field
History: Fleet Feet Syracuse has been in business for 21 years and earlier this year Fleet Feet Inc. purchased both store locations, bringing more than 40 employees into the fold.
In Their Words: “Now with involvement in Fleet Feet Inc. company operations, Fleet Feet Syracuse has become the forefront of retail development, constantly seeking to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of specialty retail. This involves challenging the way we’ve viewed partnerships with medical professionals, sponsorships for local races and athletes, crafting a rewarding and fulfilling customer experience and developing and investing in employees and their future.”.
What the Award Means to Them: “[We are] over the moon with the special recognition. There’s no shortage of hardship and difficulty in our country and a little recognition goes a long way. Honestly, anyone in specialty retail deserves an award for what we’ve all recently survived. So all of us at Fleet Feet Syracuse feel especially humbled to represent a great industry, filled with great people who wake up every day to serve their communities.”
Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Holland, Birmingham and Northville, MI
Key Personnel: Executive Team: Jen Brummitt, CEO; Angie Conflitti, Director of Merchandise; Thomas Kessel, Director of Technology; John Korreck, Director of Team Gazelle and Warehouse Operations; Cara Cross, Director of Brand. Store Managers: Alyssa Davison, Aleksandra Schab, Ethan Treber, Joe Trupp, Josh Vork
History: Founded in Kalamazoo in 1985, it has since expanded to include five retail locations and an online store.
In Their Words: “We believe movement can change your life and with that as our north star it continues to inspire us to deliver excellence in everything that we do — whether that’s through creating exceptional in-store experiences that help our customers along their movement journey, producing unique community events that raise funds for important organizations in our communities, or hosting community runs that create space for runners and walkers to gather and have fun.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Being named a top running store definitely is a bright spot in a year that has most certainly had its ups and downs. Our entire Gazelle Sports team has worked tirelessly to create outstanding customer experiences, build business, pivot when necessary and care deeply about each other and our customers through it all. We are grateful to be recognized as a top running store and cannot wait to share this award with our team and our communities.”
GEORGIA Game Changers Running Company
Two locations — Richmond Hill and Savannah, GA
Key Personnel: General Manager: Zach Fitzgerald. Owners: Ron and Sandra Elliott
History: Georgia Game Changers Running Company was founded in 2012 with the sole purpose of bringing education and service to its hometown — designed to not only inspire but also to ‘change the game’ in multiple ways. The Richmond Hill community has a large military component and Sandra, one of the founders, was a physical therapist serving at the military base for a year prior to opening the store. She discovered that there were so many ways she could use her background as a PT to enhance the community. Richmond Hill did not have a running store or any store dedicated to fitness. Along with the founding mission – to serve in order to ‘change the game’ in terms of fitness and health – the company also wanted to function as a place for runners and fitness enthusiasts to meet, mingle, share tips and run or walk, together.
In Their Words: “Game Changers stands out because we are a store founded on service and our reputation for service and education has not only inspired current runners and fitness enthusiasts, but also has introduced those who are just wanting to begin their fitness journey. When you begin with the right mindset, you can change the world around you. Indeed, we have seen our community grow in new ways because of the single-minded principle of service first and we know that continued dedication to that mindset has not only already brought great things to our community, but also will continue to do so — in game changing ways.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It means a lot to our team, especially after the year we had. We were blessed to have our main store location in Richmond Hill and we were not required to shut our store in 2020, even during the height of the pandemic. However, our Savannah location was completely shut down for many weeks due to county restrictions. We immediately began to offer fittings by appointment — either inside or outside the store depending on the customer comfort level. We also offered a free delivery service from both locations. Bottom line, this award shows us that you can never go wrong with hard work and making a difference in the lives of others.”
Amarillo, TX • www.mygetfitplace.com
Key Personnel: Karen Roberts, Owner; Andrea Blackmore, Floor Manager; Mo Glasgo, Product Manager; Hailey Garcia, Buyer; Ashli Melten, Buyer
History: Get Fit opened in 2009. The single location serves the Texas panhandle and also attracts customers from New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado.
In Their Words: “Get Fit is unique because we are more than just a running store. We focus on helping our customers achieve their goals and maintain a healthy lifestyle while welcoming them into our Get Fit family.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Receiving this award is an honor because it means that our team has put the needs of our customers and community first. Our team works well together and an award like this is proof that teamwork is essential to success.”
Good Times Running Co.
Katy, TX • www.goodtimesrunningco.com
Key Personnel: Joint Partners/Owners: Steve Brammer, Sarah Priest, Nick Waak, Andrea Witte
History: The single-store location was established in October 2017.
In Their Words: “The success of Good Times Running Co. is a direct reflection of the unmatched relationships with those in the Katy area running community, especially with the local running and triathlon clubs, local non-profits and many other key local partners. Our focus is to ‘Keep Katy Running!’”
What the Award Means to Them: “The award is the ultimate recognition of the hard work and commitment poured into building not only a healthy and thriving business, but community as well.”
Savannah, GA • www.howe2run.com
Key Personnel: Phillip and Pamela Howe, Owners; Marc Cameron, GM; Brittany Dino, Run Coach
History: The original store opened in Hinesville, GA, in March 2019, but three weeks in it suffered fire damage. The store was rebuilt and reopened that July in its current location.
In Their Words: “Two things make our store unique. The first is our specialty fit process — we are not just a ‘grab a shoe and go’ operation. Every customer utilizes the treadmill, where we assess running form. We also provide various strength and stretching programs following our assessment. We provide a welcoming atmosphere once the customer walks through the door and our saying is, ‘You provide the goal, and we will help you attain it.’
“Second, we are locally owned and community grown. Our objective is to make sure that our community knows that we are here for them every day to serve the full spectrum of their running and walking needs. We offer well-attended free weekly run groups for all levels of walkers and runners. We know it is about selling shoes and products, but it is also about welcoming everyone that walks through our doors and making them comfortable, regardless of fitness levels or goals.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It means a lot to us, particularly after overcoming adversity. It is also always great to be honored and recognized by our peers. By getting this award in only our second year, we hope it allows our story to continue to motivate other local aspiring business owners. We like to say, ‘Strength is in the struggle.’”
Three locations in San Antonio, TX • www.iruntexas.com
Key Personnel: Michele and Mitch Allen, Owners; Jessie Winett, Buyer. Store Managers: Tina Berry, Matt Perri, Kelly Wetzel
History: iRun Texas has been in San Antonio for more than a decade. It opened its doors as a RunOn! San Antonio location in 2009 and soon changed its name. A second iRun store opened in 2012 and the third store opened in 2015.
In Their Words: “Our staff is dedicated and passionate about sharing their expertise. We don’t rush the process. We will spend 20 minutes with a customer or an hour, whatever that customer needs. iRun continues to grow and expand our customer base. This gives us confirmation we are doing a good job, following our mission, by living it and breathing it each day. We work hard to never bring in an item we wouldn’t want to use ourselves. Above all, everyone is welcome at iRun Texas. Building the local running community and providing a common place for all runners to gather sets us apart from others.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It is always an honor, but I think this year it means even more. We have brought in a lot of new, young and energetic staff this year and it has been very cool to see them bond, help each other, train together and connect with the old-timers. One of our managers recently had some heart issues. To see everyone pull together and step in to help out has been awesome. Receiving this award is just confirmation of what we can do as a team.”
Keystone Running Store
Key Personnel: Chris Schmidt, VP–Operations; Elissa Agar, Store Manager, and Cat Mulholland, Sales Associate. Chester County Running Store, Pottstown, PA: Don Morrison, Manager; Carrie Adams.
History: The store originated in 1981 as the Finish Line Running Store located in Allentown. Chris Schmidt came on board in 1988 and bought the store in 1997 from the then-owner Jim Stewart. He moved the store to Emmaus, PA, in 2007, He closed that store in 2013 and went to work for another retailer. He left that store in 2020 and rebranded the location Keystone Running Store.
In Their Words: “We feel like our customer service is what makes us different — we truly feel like we are making friends and building relationships rather than making sales. This has been a priority to me and the store since its inception. We really try to stay connected with the community and try to give back as much and as often as possible. Since 2007 we have collected and given boxed and canned foods and turkeys and hams for the holidays to local food banks. We have sponsored and run a local 10K on one of our rail to trails for the last 20 years.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It is truly humbling to receive this award again — we do not do things to be recognized, but rather do it because we want to. So to receive this award is truly an honor and to know all hard work is being acknowledged. Opening a new store in February of 2020 has come with a lot more issues than just opening a new store, so reestablishing ourselves in our community and being recognized makes this award mean more than you can know.”
LUCKY ROAD RUN SHOP
Three locations in Virginia: Midlothian, Richmond, Fredericksburg
Key Personnel: Jeff and Desiree Horn, Owners; Brandon Croft, Levi Reese, Mark Tickner, Blake Cornwell, Chris Badolato, Rachel King and Alexis Wilson
History: Lucky Road Run Shop was founded by Jeff Van Horn in 2012 and now operates three locations in central Virginia.
In Their Words: “We hold true to the principles that make run specialty special. We’ve lived our lives here, raised our kids here and built a business here by fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with our community. We consider our managers and associates family and we care for them accordingly. We recognize that our clients are the heroes of their own stories. Our purpose is to learn about them, their activities, their goals and challenges. ”
What the Award Means to Them: “It’s proof that constantly reminding ourselves why we do this and remaining true to our core principles and values – after 22 years – is still the best way forward.”
MANHATTAN RUNNING COMPANY
Key Personnel: Trey Vernon and Ben Sigle, Owners
History: The store was founded in July 2008 by Trey and Ben, who are both former Oklahoma State University cross-country and track runners.
In Their Words: “We pride ourselves on having a variety of brands, models and widths. For a small town, you won’t find more variety in choices.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This award means that all the hard work we have been putting into the store is paying off. [The qualities] that we want to reflect to our customers are getting out there in the best way.”
Eleven locations in Massachusetts • www.marathonsports.com
Key Personnel: Colin Peddie, President
History: Marathon Sports was founded in 1975 in a renovated first floor apartment near Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. In 1992, Colin Peddie took the reins of the one-store operation and eventually grew the business to 11 locations covering the Boston metro area, the North and South Shores and central and western Massachusetts.
In Their Words: “The most unique thing that we do is to help spread the sport of running at the scholastic age. We partner very closely with the Massachusetts State Track and Coaches Association, which puts on most of the XC and track meets in the state, and a few years ago we teamed up to brainstorm how we can get high school kids and their parents more engaged with the sport and BayStateRunning.com was formed in 2016. Our live streams of top meets can get upwards of 16,000 views. We’ve gotten over 1.7 million views of the various videos.”
What the Award Means to Them: “As a company we strive every single day to figure out ways in which we can improve the customer experience within our stores, improve our vendors’ experience with us as a retailer and improve the running community as a whole. The satisfaction that we get comes from the customers themselves. Seeing a national organization with authority within the running specialty world naming us one of the Best Running Stores gives the leadership team, staff within the stores and our customers a sense of pride that they are working and shopping with one of the best in the country.”
MILL CITY RUNNING
Key Personnel: Bekah and Jeff Metzdorff, Owners
History: MCR was founded in 2013 in Minneapolis and expanded to two stores in 2020 with the opening of Saint City Running in St. Paul.
In Their Words: “Embracing the weird things makes our store unique. If it’s hosting a prom for our run club, having a band made up of members of our team that plays at running events, or seeking an outside-the-box product that might be just a little left of center but creates a buzz, we’re here for it.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Man, it’s fun. We look up to so many of these stores. Our tiny shops are being mentioned in the same breath as pioneers in the industry or those stretching to push the industry forward, it’s just cool to be a part of it.”
NAPERVILLE RUNNING COMPANY
Four locations in Naperville, IL: NRC South, NRC North, NRC Wheaton, NRC Annex
Key Personnel: Kris Hartner, Owner. Executive Team: Nick and Marisa Hird, Kyle Brady
History: Kris Hartner founded NRC in 2000. The second location opened in 2014, the third in 2017 and the fourth in 2019.
In Their Words: “We view our vendor relationships as partnerships and friendships. We carry a large selection of the best specialty brands, including limited allocation products, and we dedicated 3000-square feet of our basement to high school athletes. We also opened up a location just nine doors down from our flagship store called The Annex, dedicated to last season’s best sellers at discounted prices — we want to offer the best experience and selection at whatever price point our customers are comfortable shopping.
“This being said, we live, train and educate our staff with one goal in mind and we turn our lights on every day with one purpose, our stated commitment to our customers: to make your life better, to share our energy, enthusiasm and knowledge, to coach and educate through classes and training groups, to have fun at our group runs and special events, to outfit you with the key equipment to fully enjoy your activity and to give back to the community that is so supportive of us.”
What the Award Means to Them: “We love helping people reach their goals and we have a passion for running, educating, partnerships and our community. Receiving an award like this is truly an honor. It’s a way to capture these incredible attributes from our customers and partners in such an impactful and thoughtful way.”
NORTH WALES RUNNING COMPANY
North Wales Running Company, North Wales, PA; All Kinds of Fast, Phoenixville, PA
Key Personnel: Scott Tantino, Owner/Manager; Gayland Aston, Store Manager, All Kinds of Fast
History: Scott Tantino founded North Wales Running Company in April 2006 in his hometown of North Wales, PA. In 2013, he opened a second store, All Kinds of Fast, in Phoenixville, PA.
In Their Words: “While our stores may be small in size, our passion for helping our community has no boundaries. One thing that makes our stores unique is the fact that we have one of the widest ranges in age and life experiences with employing people in their early 20s through 60s. Having all of those experience levels brings a lot of positives to our in-store experience for customers, but also provides a lot of growth and learning opportunities amongst staff.
“Another thing that makes our store unique is our Rocket Turtle mascot and tagline, ‘All Kinds of Fast.’ The Rocket Turtle is symbol of our All Kinds of Fast pride, meaning that no matter what your speed, age or ability, you are welcome at our stores and we are here to help you through your health and wellness journey.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It is proof to staff that what we believe in, and the customer service we strive to provide each day, are special and worthy of recognition. This is something that we can celebrate together — it is a true honor.”
Six locations across Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia
Key Personnel: Chris Farley, President; Kathy Dalby, CEO; Kelly O’Cadiz, COO
History: Pacers Running began as a neighborhood running store in Old Town, Alexandria in 1991. Today, the business has expanded to include six stores in DC and northern Virginia, plus an extensive online store.
In Their Words: “We’re helping more DC runners than ever before fall in love with the sport of running and making sure they have all of the right gear to get from the start to the finish line. We remain passionately committed to helping runners of every walk of life experience the joy and transformation of running.”
What the Award Means to Them: “To be recognized for a job well done, especially during the past difficult months, is incredibly special.”
Palmetto Running Company
Hilton Head Island, SC;
Key Personnel: Christian Fyfe, Rob Fyfe, Keri Straughn — Co-owners
History: Family-owned and operated, PRC was founded in 2011 when Rob Fyfe first moved to South Carolina and noticed a need for a running community. Soon his son and daughter joined the team and helped to take the business to the next level. PRC celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year.
In Their Words: “We really pride ourselves on the way we run our business and how many consider us leaders in the industry. Pushing the industry to do better, be better. Owning a business is about so much more than the day to day. It’s about what you choose to do with the platform you’ve been given and the amount of effort you’re willing to put into it.
“We credit much of our success in the Lowcountry to running our stores with open hands. It is with that mindset and mentality that we, as a local business, spread compassion for our own community. Whether through our annual Student Athlete Scholarship, our school-based info sessions, our PRC Eco-Initiative or the half-million dollars we have raised for local charities through our race events, Palmetto Running Company has thrived because of our dedication and commitment to taking care of our local community and environment.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This award is what keeps us going. It shows us that everything that we do for our customers and our community is being recognized and is making a difference.”
Performance Running Outfitters
Five locations in the Milwaukee, WI, metro area
Key Personnel: Trae and Jessica Hoepner, Owners
History: The business was founded in 2006 with one store and has since expanded to five locations in and around Milwaukee, WI. Together, the Hoepners have more than 27 years of coaching and 38 years of running expertise.
In Their Words: “Our team’s commitment to connecting with our customers and community, in addition to providing the best experience by continually evolving to meet their needs, makes our stores unique. We are picky in hiring and it shows — we have the most caring and hard-working people. They go above and beyond.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This award helps validate the hard work our staff does to provide the best experience for customers. Our staff is the face of our business and it means the world to show them that what they’re doing is making a difference and matters to us and our community.”
Okemos, MI • www.playmakers.com
Key Personnel: Brian Jones, Tom Keenoy
History: Rooted in the greater Lansing community, passionate runner and visionary Curt Munson purchased Playmakers in 1981. In 2002, the store moved to its present location in Okemos. Now celebrating 40 years in business, Playmakers continues to operate as a single-door business.
In Their Words: “We place a high value on innovation, never accepting today as being the destination. We always look for ways to improve. Three examples are helping to establish the Running Industry Diversity Coalition, offering expanded shopping experiences and adding expanded year-round shopping value that features a larger sales area (an increase from 1500-square feet to 3000-square feet) and price points that fit most every budget.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Being among the top running stores in the country is truly an honor. This award is a reflection of our supportive and loyal staff, customers, event participants and community. People have always been at the root of what we do and now, more than ever, giving our customers an outstanding experience in-store and online is so important to us. We look forward to the opportunity to grow, learn, listen and evolve over the next year.”
Red Coyote Running and Fitness
Oklahoma City, OK
Key Personnel: Burke and Jon Beck, Co- Owners; Josh Lacan, GM; John Oseland, Director of Operations; Jenny Broad, Accessories PLM and Store Manager; Luis Chavez, Footwear PLM and Store Manager
History: Red Coyote was founded in 2010 by Burke and Jon Beck, whose love of running and helping others through fitness led them to their dream of owning their own store. Red Coyote has two locations, in Oklahoma City and Edmond, OK. Red Coyote is named after the Beck’s 16-year-old dog, Pancho.
In Their Words: “Red Coyote was founded to keep our community healthy through movement and it is deeply committed to our team, our customers and local non-profits. Red Coyote has been such an inspiration to some that 12 super-fans actually have the Red Coyote logo tattooed on their bodies. The Red Coyote team supports many local non-profits such as Girls on the Run and Cleats for Kids. We have fit over 2500 kids in the Cleats for Kids program in the last two years, helping kids discover running.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Every year Red Coyote strives to be the best store that we can be, no matter the situation. COVID changed everything for our community and local businesses and we changed our business operation almost daily. Everyone at Red Coyote wanted to ensure that OKC had what they needed when they needed it to keep moving forward. For our community to nominate us for this award is what motivates our team to keep giving their best everyday despite the circumstances.”
Ridgefield Running Company/ Darien Running Company
Ridgefield and Darien, CT
www.ridgefieldrunning.com • www.darienrunning.com
Key Personnel: Megan Searfoss, Owner
History: Founded in 2014 and a woman-owned business since inception. Opened Darien Running in July, 2020 — it not only opened during COVID, but it has also withstood two hurricane floods this year.
In Their Words: “Our community involvement makes us unique. In 2021, we saw an employee give 75 percent of her liver to a customer, after nearly 100 of our runners went to get tested. Our summer programming from kid’s programs to adults is a huge hit. This year our races returned and the give back to charities was the biggest yet because our community knows how much non-profits rely on us. RRC/DRC donated shoes and gear to an impoverished school that launched their first-ever XC team. Most of these kids did not even know about the sport previously.
“We bring traditional, old-school customer service with next level technology to assist the customer. Our stores are 100 percent iPad mobile, making the transaction happen at the foot stool. We no longer print receipts — everything is emailed.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Receiving this award means everything to the team. We have worked extremely hard this year, pushing smiles through masks and making sure that everyone feels safe during their experience at the stores. I have a very small team of committed humans that love what they do and it shows. The award is a great reward that they can share with the world.”
Run For Your Life
Three locations in Charlotte, NC: Midtown, Piper Glen and University
Key Personnel: Chris Elkins, Owner
History: Run For Your Life was founded in 1989 and currently operates three stores. It is Charlotte’s oldest run specialty business.
In Their Words: “Kindness is our superpower and inspiring people makes our day. We respect and befriend all people who walk through our door. We are motivated by the relationships we share with our community and our desire to use 30 years of expertise to personalize every customer experience.”
What the Award Means to Them: “We are grateful to see that our hard work pays off and that people have noticed that we have helped to positively impact our community enough that we were recognized for this award. We are grateful to those who keep coming back and trusting us with providing the best consumer experience we possibly can.”
Phoenix, AZ • www.therunnersden.com
Key Personnel: Rob Wallack, Founder and Owner; Nate Wallack, Second Generation Staffer and Floor Manager; Ron French, Store Manager and Buyer; Craig Davidson, Sales Floor
History: Runner’s Den opened in 1978 and has been in its current location in North Central Phoenix for the past 32 years.
In Their Words: “What makes our store unique is our consistency in providing the same great service across several decades and to all types of customers. Our in-store operations have always been entirely focused on meeting our customers’ needs. Whether that is ensuring they have the proper gear to meet their goals, advice for training for an event or simply acting as a hub for their involvement in the running community, we consider it an honor to have a small part in their running journey.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Receiving this award means so much to us because we know what amazing work other run specialty shops have been doing in this channel. As the industry has grown we’ve seen some stores come and go, but the quality of other stores right here in Phoenix and beyond is a testament to the ongoing evolution of what run specialty shops can be and how they can serve their communities. Considering this, it’s beyond an honor to be recognized once again as one of the Best Running Stores in the industry.”
Missoula, MT • www.runnersedgemt.com
Key Personnel: Anders and Meg Brooker, Owners; Vicky Mix, Manager and Apparel Buyer; Erin Forde, Floor Manager and Accessory Buyer
History: Anders Brooker and his parents started Runner’s Edge in 2001 and 20 years later the business continues to operate out of one location.
In Their Words: “We have the best employees. I know most running stores can say this, but our staff is family. It’s a culture and a way of life for our employees at RE. We celebrate everyone’s achievements on and off of the sales floor, from dropping off holiday gifts to our top customers on a bus, to laser tag, zip lining, an overnight trip to Seattle and an employee float on the Clark Fork River. The list goes on and we couldn’t be more thankful for the crew that works with us every day.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It will continue to validate what we stand for. Our mission is to ‘enhance lives by building community, developing relationships and having fun’ and we feel this statement embodies what we truly believe. We love to work at a business that impacts more than a person’s physical health.”
Two Virginia locations: Norfolk, Virginia Beach
Key Personnel: Mike and Pam Robinson, Owners; John Lomogda, Norfolk Manager; Mark Manny, Virginia Beach Manager; Shannon Ralston, Apparel Manager; Carol Dalton, Nutrition Manager; Emily Spencer, Accessory Manager, Web Site and Social Media Guru
History: Running Etc. has been in business for 36 years. Michael Robinson founded the Norfolk location in June 1986 and the Virginia Beach store opened in August 2004. The staff boasts more than 150 years of running experience combined.
In Their Words: “The majority of my staff has been with me for 20 years. We share the same passion for running, product and customer service. We are kind people. Our motto is simple: ‘If we take care of our customers, our customers will damn sure take care of us!’ We saw this during the recession and the pandemic. Our customers and our running community were deeply concerned about us. We saw a ton of ‘local love’ and it proved to me that small shops would survive.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It means that we’re doing the right things. I am humbled and appreciative of this award. We were nominated by our wonderful customers. We are so fortunate to be in this industry and work with runners who are by nature the nicest people on the planet.”
Brighton, MI • www.runninglabstore.com
Key Personnel: Ken Larscheid, Owner; Toni Reese, Store Manager; Jen Crutchfield, Manager; Kimberly Bastian, Shipping Manager
History: Ken Larscheid opened Running Lab, a single-store operation, in July 2011, and has become known for being the “fit experts in Livingston County.”
In Their Words: “Running Lab’s expert staff along with our fit process makes the store truly special and unique. Our mission is to hire staff with compassion that our customers can trust and come back to time and time again. Our weekly group run with Team Running Lab attracts the greatest runners and walkers in the area to make everyone feel valued and celebrated.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This award is an incredible honor for our staff and our community. Our staff is proud of the energy they put into everything they do at Running Lab. Being one of the best running stores validates their hard work and dedication to our community.”
St. Louis, MO • www.runningniche.com
Key Personnel: Jennifer Hudson, Co-owner; Bob Dyer, Co-owner; Riley Flynn, Sales and Keyholder; Mike Dyer, Social Media and E-commerce
History: The business opened in May 2018 in one location in the heart of the City of St. Louis, centrally located close to hospitals, universities and parks.
In Their Words: “Being in a part of St. Louis that does not have much retail, we’ve been able to build a running community through running groups, coaching and race support that fills a need in our neighborhood as well as draws people in from surrounding areas who might not normally spend much time in the city. When someone comes to our store we spend time getting to know them and their needs. Our knowledge of products, fitting, Lydiard training, a great place to run or get a beer and a burger makes our store a fun, informative running home for locals and visitors alike.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Winning this award is a huge bright spot during a very challenging time. It reminds us we are doing meaningful work to help people improve their health and wellbeing through running and walking. It also affirms and reinforces that we are building our community and business in a positive way.”
Pensacola, FL, and Fairhope, AL • www.werunwild.com
Key Personnel: Paul and Cheri Epstein, Owners
History: The Epsteins opened the Pensacola store in August 2000 and although neither of them had any retail experience, they were passionate about running and wanted to do something meaningful while serving others. Ten years later, some of their good friends moved to Fairhope, AL, and encouraged them to open a location there. Now, more than 21 years later, the business is still going strong.
In Their Words: “We are important to our guests and community for many reasons. We take care of our staff, we’re not afraid to carry and sell unpopular brands and products because we know that they may be the best solution for our guests and we put people ahead of business and always strive to do the right thing.”
What the Award Means to Them: “The award is special for us as it’s a tangible recognition of the care that we give our daily activities in the run specialty retail world.”
Rush Running Company
Bentonville and Fayetteville, AR www.rushrunning.com
Key Personnel: Mike and Alison Rush, Owners; Drew Connor, GM; Keri Letson, Buyer; James Reeves, Floor Manager
History: This local, independent, family-owned business operates two locations in northwest Arkansas. The original Bentonville store opened in 2008.
In Their Words: “We don’t want anybody to feel like being a runner is out of reach. We pride ourselves on being the catalyst for that sense of community that so many seek. With people from all over the world moving to northwest Arkansas to work, there are many that feel like they’ve left their friends and families to work a job in a place where they know nobody. That’s where we step in. We’ve created a giant family of individuals who identify as rich, poor, big, small, fast, slow and everything in between — all of whom come together due to one strong bond: running. We love our community.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Receiving this award this year has been a huge sigh of relief. We’ve always used this competition as a way to judge how we’re doing as a store in comparison to our peers. The last year-and-a-half has been so hard. We’ve experienced everything from a sharp decline in sales, the closure of one of our three locations and huge layoffs, to a huge influx in business, record sales and manufacturing/distribution woes. We have felt like we’ve been underwater for some time. So this recognition truly does mean a lot.”
ST. PETE RUNNING COMPANY
St. Petersburg, FL
Key Personnel: Cody and Janna Angell, Owners. Senior Staff Members: Adrienne Berry, Tiffany Terracciano
History: The store opened in 2014 and currently has 20 employees.
In Their Words: “We’ve curated a very robust running community. We host regular group runs, track workouts, education seminars and club socials for runners and walkers in the community. Also, we have the fit process called StrideSmart, which is holistic and comprehensive. Everyone who works at St. Pete Running Company loves coming to work and genuinely cares about what we’re doing. We hold a common belief that we’re improving people’s lives.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It helps validate some of the hard work we do. It also reminds our customers and community that they can benefit from being around a small and smart running store that is customer-focused.”
THE RUNNING WELL STORE
Three stores: Mission, KS; Kansas City and Lee’s Summit, MO
Key Personnel: Kathy Gates, Owner; Tara Wehri, Barry Road Manager; Angela Reed, Lee’s Summit Manager; Cole Bosley, Mission Manager; Meredyth Melcher, Operations Manager; Will Henry, Buyer
History: Bob Lafferty founded The Running Well Store in 2006 and in 2012 Kathy Gates took over as manager and then purchased the store in 2013. Since then, Gates has expanded the business to three locations employing five full-time and 45 part-time employees.
In Their Words: “Our staff makes us unique. The employees at The Running Well Store genuinely want to see their clients succeed, whether success is a PR or getting through a work shift without pain. This passion toward our clients is what sets us apart from all other run specialty stores in Kansas City.”
What the Award Means to Them: “This award means more this year than any other award as the challenges in 2021 have been unparalleled. From clients wanting inventory that doesn’t exist, challenges with colorways and managing the political situation with mask mandates, working the sales floor is more difficult than it has ever been in retail. This award tells us that what we do day-in and day-out is appreciated and it matters.”
TORTOISE AND HARE SPORTS
Glendale, AZ • www.tortoiseandharesports.com
Key Personnel: Rebecca and Nathan Hohenstein, Co-owners; Christine Pederson, GM; Des Clarke, Manager; Jesse Hicks, Apparel Buyer; Lauren Hoover, Assistant Manager; Greg Garland, Events Coordinator
History: Tortoise and Hare was founded in 2012 and operates one location.
In Their Words: “Community is at the heart of everything we do. The people in our shop and community members keep us focused on the customer experience and how we can positively impact those around us.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It’s flattering to be recognized by our industry and peers. The Running Event allows us an opportunity to continue to learn and grow by being surrounded by the best retailers in America.”
Orlando, FL • www.TrackShack.com
Key Personnel: Jon and Betsy Hughes, Co-owners; Chris Hughes, Director of Retail Operations/Special Events; Nathan Adams, Buyer/Manager; Bruce Egeland, Manager; Andres Fernandez, Buyer/IT; Matt Scarano, Floor Manager; Kerrie Gregory, Wellness Outreach/Galloway Training Director. Marketing Team: Natalie Casey, Sarah Brown
History: Track Shack was founded in 1977 and in 1983 Jon and Betsy Hughes became the sole owners. The current 5000-square-foot store remains family-owned and boasts a staff of 20. The Hughes’ also own Track Shack Events, which manages and produces area events including runDisney weekends.
In Their Words: “Our philosophy of having one location, ‘build it and they will come,’ helped with our success. We surround ourselves with caring people and pride ourselves on only the best customer service.”
What the Award Means to Them: “We are all incredibly proud to be named one of the Best Running Stores in 2021. The passion we have for our sport has never waned.”
UP AND RUNNING
Dayton and Troy, OH
Key Personnel: Susie Stein, Owner; Nickie Luse, Buyer and Marketing; Maria Mille, Human Resources; Laurie Spiewak, Dayton Store Manager; Teri Iverson, Troy Store Manager; Angela Jordan, Facility Operations
History: Founded in 2005, Up and Running was born from the simple, powerful vision of owner Susie Stein that anyone can be a runner. Over the past 16 years, the business has grown from a single store that was originally geared toward active females to two locations serving all individuals.
In Their Words: “We are one team, bonded by shared love of our community. Our store is only as good as the service we give — it’s what sets us apart from the competition, it’s what empowers our customers to tackle hard things and a positive encounter with us may be just the catalyst [customers] need to improve or change their lives. It’s not just shoes, it’s positivity, empowerment, encouragement, understanding and the knowledge that we care.”
What the Award Means to Them: “The fact that our customers found it important and took the time to vote for us showing their appreciation for the care and compassion we provide in the store and in our community is truly an honor.”
Four locations in Louisiana: one each in Baton Rouge and Mandeville and two in New Orleans • www.varsityrunning.com
Key Personnel: Jenni Peters, Owner. Store Managers: Kristen Manske, Bud Weiss, Jimmy Wiggins
History: The business opened in 2000 in Baton Rouge and now boasts four locations.
In Their Words: “The original store in Baton Rouge opened in 2000, situated in a little house near the six-mile LSU Lakes loop, a popular running and walking destination. The ‘little house as a store’ became part of the shop’s brand personality. The Mandeville location opened in 2007, the New Orleans Magazine Street store opened in 2010 and the New Orleans Lakeview store opened in 2020.”
What the Award Means to Them: “Every one of us in specialty retail continues to try to find ways to be relevant in this ‘one click’ world. So to a great extent, this award lets us know we are on the right road. It’s a tremendous honor for our staff and our customers that made it possible for us.”
Whirlaway Sport CENTER
Methuen, MA • www.whirlawaysports.com
Key Personnel: Dave Kazanjian, President; Maggi Murray, GM; Adriana Birleanu, Buyer and Marketing Coordinator
History: Dave Kazanjian started the store right out of college on June 1, 1983 and it remains a one-location retailer.He was a competitive runner in high school and had a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University, but after a career-ending injury he started coaching at Methuen High School and opened the running specialty store when he graduated.
In Their Words: “Our store is unique because it sits on 17 acres of land, which also has Whirlaway Golf Driving Range — the oldest family-owned golf driving range in the country (established 1931 now 90-years old). Our 16,000-square-foot building houses the golf pro shop on the first floor along with Al’s Breakfast Diner. Whirlaway Sports Center is on the second floor and has more than1000 skus of footwear that includes wrestling, soccer, baseball, football, volleyball, tennis, cross training and cheerleading.”
What the Award Means to Them: “It’s a great testament to our staff. There is no better feeling than getting a compliment on a staff member. To bring everyone back and to receive this award is extra special.”
Xtra Mile Running
Key Personnel: Christopher Schiel, Owner and Store Manager; Christina Schiel, Marketing and Communications; Kennon Moy, Sales Associate, Training; Michelle Furnas, Sales Associate, Purchasing; Dian Cain, Program Coordinator/Coach
History: Xtra Mile opened its doors in 2018 as a family-owned independent retailer.
In Their Words: “We are stitched in deeply with our community. Not only do we coach kids and adults year-round, but we also put on three 5K races per year and host two group runs and two yoga classes every week. The store partners with the local park district to co-host Global Running Day in June and a legit high school cross-country race in November.”
What the Award Means to Them: “To receive the Best Running Store Award in consecutive years has meant the world to us. In a bizarre period of time where many of us felt isolated personally and professionally, earning this recognition from our customer base and our peers has been a tremendous lift and a reaffirmation of the importance of the work we do with each and every person who enters our store.”