There’s more than one way to survive a crisis – and perhaps make lemonade from the lemons the industry has been given – and Kelley’s Pace owner Jeff Anderson has found a way to at least make the best of a tough situation.
With his running store forced to close on March 23 following a coronavirus-related executive order from Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, Anderson quickly activated plans to expand and renovate his 40-year-old retail shop in Mystic, CT.
“This allows us to focus on something positive and it allows me to keep some of my employees working,” says Anderson, whose store must remain closed until at least April 22 per Lamont’s order. “We know things will get better and we want to be able to hit the ground running when we can open back up.”
Anderson, a former advertising executive and nonprofit staffer who purchased Kelley’s Pace in 2014, took over the 700-square foot retail space adjacent to his storefront last December.
“We weren’t quite ready to expand, but it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up,” Anderson says, adding that the former tenant, a plant store, had done a “gorgeous job” building out the space.
While Anderson initially slotted construction for the spring, Lamont’s executive order coupled with slowing business amid the COVID-19 pandemic presented Anderson an opportunity to “tear up the store” without a disruption to business.
“It makes sense from the practical side since we’re not getting traffic in here right now, but it’s also something positive for me and the team to focus on amid everything else going on right now,” Anderson says.
Anderson and some Kelley’s Pace staff members began breaking down and packing up the store on March 24 and March 25 in preparation for the arrival of construction crews on March 26.
The second expansion Anderson has overseen at Kelley’s Pace – he added 250-square feet to the running store’s original 960-square-foot layout in 2018 – the new Kelley’s Pace will cover more than 1900-square feet. Anderson is pairing the entirety of the former plant shop with 600-square feet from his store’s existing footprint to produce a larger, brighter retail floor showcasing product as well as a smoothie bar serving protein shakes and other recovery items. The remaining space will be devoted to storage and back-office operations.
In addition, Anderson is shifting the Kelley’s Pace entrance to the former plant shop’s entrance, a move that enhances in-store sightlines and ensures a more organized, practical layout. The new entrance will be flanked by a statue of John Kelley, the store’s namesake and a former Boston Marathon champion and U.S. Olympian.
“We’ll have an entirely new look that will be better for our customers and our staff,” Anderson says, adding that a larger outdoor gathering space will allow Kelley’s Pace to accommodate its swelling fun run groups.
Anderson hopes to complete the project by May 1, hopeful, of course, that he can indeed re-open his business by then amid the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic.