There’s one big reason Kate King is excited to re-open Go Far Shop, the specialty running and outdoor shop she operates in Boulder, CO. And, no, it’s not about selling more stuff.
“Anyone who owns a specialty store knows that this business is all about the community it creates and fosters,” King says. “That’s what we believe has made this store special since we originally opened. This is a unique and challenging time for everyone, but we’ve always believed in our connection to the community.”
King and business partner Ken Sung opened Go Far Shop in October 2017 a few blocks east of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, and it has since made its mark selling to Boulder’s fitness- and adventure-oriented population, as well as the droves of tourists that visit Boulder throughout the spring and summer.
But like many specialty shops across the country, Go Far Shop was forced to close temporarily in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It re-opened on May 9 with limited hours, new cleaning protocols and allowing no more than 10 customers at a time in the 2200-square-foot store.
The store subsided on the online sales it generated through social media posts and an e-newsletter, but it also attracted a lot of attention from its “Be Boulder, Go Farther” virtual speaker series that it started in late March. The Zoom-based series, which has featured mostly Boulder-based athletes, coaches, authors and health practitioners, has drawn 10 to 50 participants at time and lot of buzz, both on social media and around town.
Featured speakers have included U.S. Olympic Trials marathon runner-up Jake Riley and his coach Lee Troop; renowned running coaches David and Megan Roche; chiropractor Casey Campbell; trail runners Cat Bradley, Maddie Hart, Amelia Boone and Matt Daniels; physical therapist Lara Johnson; fitness trainer Kari Sullivan; and, most recently, a star-studded endurance athlete panel that included Aisha Praught Leer and Will Leer, Dan Nestor, Noah Droddy, Andy Wacker, Karley Rempel and Nicole Mericle.
The Social Connection
While it has helped the store promote and increase its online sales, that’s been secondary to the community aspects it has fostered, King says. Several of the sessions included interactive group workouts and self-care treatments and all have included engaging Q&A sessions.
“It’s really been refreshing and fun,” King says. “It’s been so wonderful to hear so many positive stories about how people are managing through this crazy time, not to mention sharing workouts and treatments and motivational stories. It really shows how we can all help each other.”
The speaker series was the idea of running coach Kristen Mohror, massage therapist Kate Ripley and physical therapist Sarah Ceschin — all friends of King and loyal store customers who wanted to help out in any way possible. Within two days, they had fine-tuned the concept with King, developed a list of speakers, produced a logo, launched the series and set up the opportunity for speakers and participants to donate to local charities. To date, the series has help generate more than $400 for Boulder’s Downtown Relief Fund.
“We knew Kate was devastated about the pandemic and what it meant for the community and the store, so we got on a Zoom call and we came up with this idea,” Mohror says. “The response to the series has been amazing. From emails to Instagram messages, comments on Facebook and general engagement with the shop. It’s been really rewarding to work on a project that benefits the community in so many ways.”
The speaker series will continue even as the store opens up again. If the shop is once again able to host in-store events, it will likely continue the virtual part of the series. In the meantime, all of the virtual events have been saved on Go Far Shop’s YouTube channel.
The store lost a big chunk of spring revenue that it typically attracts with the uptick of spring tourism. King won’t reveal online sales details, except to say that it’s been a “big boost.” More importantly, she says, it’s helped create a new outlook for the store amid the new normal that retail businesses are facing.
“Like everyone else, Ken and I think this COVID situation is going to change retail so much. If we don’t get ahead of it now and just try to stay connected while everyone is in this weird and challenging time, we’ll miss out,” King says.
“Who knows when we’ll be able to have in-store events again? We’ll keep the Zoom events going, which is great because they’ve been really well received. But I do miss the connection of seeing people in person and having a sense of community inside the store.”