After 47 years in the running retail race, Mark Bauman hit the finish line.
On Dec. 30, Bauman, who founded Bauman’s Running and Walking Shop in Flint, MI, in 1974, sold his namesake retail operation to long-time employees Carlos Benton, Adam Baldridge and Shawn White.
The sale price: A whopping $1.
“It’s a deal that made sense to me,” Bauman says of the unorthodox transaction. “My wife and I are blessed to be financially stable, so we didn’t have to extract top dollar for the business. Plus, these guys were with me a long time and their efforts allowed the business to keep moving forward.”
Tabbing employees as the first option
Like a few other running retailing pioneers, Bauman began his retail operation out of his car and home, largely selling to athletes and fitness fanatics who had embraced the sport following Frank Shorter’s 1972 Olympic Marathon victory that ignited the nation’s first running boom.
In 1977, the Flint native purchased a home in a commercial area of Genesee County and placed his inventory in the property’s single-car garage. Bauman would later add onto that garage before moving his retail operation into a traditional retail storefront on the neighboring property in 2006.
“And that’s the same spot Bauman’s is in today,” says Bauman, a member of the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame who boasts a still-active streak of 52 consecutive Boston Marathon finishes.
Whenever Bauman would gather with other running store owners over the years at different industry events, he says conversation around exit planning would inevitably arise. While Bauman listened to others’ plans and options, Bauman expressed hope he could sell the store to his employees.
“My employees were always going to have the first option to buy,” Bauman says of Benton, Baldridge and White, who collectively devoted more than 70 total years to Bauman’s shop.
Setting up the sale
Initially, Bauman envisioned selling the business for the value of inventory. Over time, however, that theoretical asking price dwindled to 60 percent, then 40 percent of the inventory’s value. By the time Bauman got serious about retirement in 2021, he settled on the grand final sales price of $1.
To prepare for the sale, Bauman also paid his accounts down to zero, a reality helped by the pandemic era’s running surge and, oddly enough, supply chain issues limiting the inventory he could access.
“My whole thing was to make sure the new owners would be financially viable well into the future so the business can continue on for the long term rather than being strapped with debt,” says Bauman, who retains ownership of the property and now serves as the shop’s landlord.
Bauman admits his unconventional exit isn’t for everyone, though it worked for him.
“I spent my whole life saving and living fairly modest, which put me in a position to do this,” he says. “These are three stand-up guys who have given so much to me that I wanted to give back to them.”
A new era for Bauman’s
The running store’s new ownership has already put their stamp on the business. They recently remodeled the store’s interior, adding new flooring and fresh paint alongside a new register counter and merchandising displays.
“That’s something the cheap side of me wouldn’t do,” Bauman says of the interior remodel his successors completed.
According to White, the new ownership aims to provide the same dedicated service to the community that was Bauman’s hallmark for nearly 50 years.
“Building off what Mark established over all these decades, we want to appeal to new customers while still being there for our loyal ones,” White says.