Already dealing with the devastating impact of COVID-19, some running stores have encountered another unanticipated problem: looters.
As some protests across the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd’s death devolved into riots and looting infected communities from coast to coast, running stores – many of whom had either just reopened or were planning to reopen within the next week – were among those targeted in cities coast to coast.
In Portland, OR, Foot Traffic staff members spent Saturday morning cleaning up and assessing damage after looters smashed front windows and pulled footwear and apparel from the company’s downtown store throughout Friday night and Saturday morning. Just shy of 5:00 a.m. on Saturday, a local broadcast reporter posted video of two looters exiting the store’s front window with goods in hand before jogging down the street. Foot Traffic owner Sean Rivers estimates that half of the store’s inventory vanished overnight.
Looters hit Philadelphia Runner’s Center City store on Saturday, doing much of their damage before nightfall. Vandals attempted to start fires, which set off the store’s sprinkler system, but not before leaving the store a chaotic, littered mess of glass, debris and merchandise, some of which wasn’t even from Philadelphia Runner’s stock. When owner Ross Martinson arrived at the store on Sunday morning about 6:00 a.m., he observed looters entering neighboring businesses and says some late-coming looters even approached his store.
“It’s a complete loss,” says Martinson, who cleaned up his store’s exterior with the help of a volunteer army and hired a demo crew to tidy up the shop’s ravaged interior.
On Monday, Martinson boarded up his two other Philadelphia-based locations to prevent further damage. Initially planning to re-open four of his five Philadelphia Runner stores on Friday, Martinson says that’s “now in doubt.”
“And it could be weeks, if not months, before we can reopen [the Center City store] given the extent of the damage there,” he says.
Fleet Feet Chicago ‘Gone,’ Rochester ‘Numb’
Dave Zimmer, who owns Fleet Feet Chicago with his wife, Lisa, says his seven-year-old South Loop store was “gone” after vandals tore through it on Saturday night.
“As I drove toward the store on Sunday morning, I saw Hoka boxes scattered around the street and I knew that was a bad sign,” Zimmer says.
Just before 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, Ellen Brenner-Boutillier and her husband, Boots, owner of three Fleet Feet stores in Rochester, NY, received a call from local police that their Armory store had been targeted.
“Numb,” says Brenner-Boutillier, who went to bed Saturday night fearing her store could be a casualty of swirling mobs of looters around Rochester. “Right when the phone rang, I knew we were hit and immediately asked which store it was.”
When the couple arrived at their Armory store at 2:15 a.m., they saw three front windows and the front door shattered. Security footage shows four people entering the building and roaming the store for about three minutes before returning to an awaiting vehicle. That, Brenner-Boutillier later learned, was a theme across the Rochester area on Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
“They were there for the quick take,” she says. “They wanted to get to the shoes, but couldn’t, so our losses weren’t massive.”
After being shuttered for more than two months because of the novel coronavirus, the Armory store was slated to open on Monday at 11:00 a.m. – and open it did.
“We were hyper-focused on our mission and we were going to open come hell or high water,” Brenner-Boutillier says.
Hope in the Power of Running
Despite the destruction of his store, Zimmer remains optimistic about the power of running to bring communities together.
“I understand the outrage and indignation from people who have been oppressed. There are no words to describe it. All we lost was property,” he says. “Other people have lost much more.”