These Specialty Run Stores are Among the Best in the Midwest

Specialty run shops are vital to the success of the running marketplace. To attract consumers, these stores team with local charities, become hubs for their communities and make service a priority. With Global Running Day approaching (June 7), Footwear News put the spotlight on 12 of the best shops in the U.S. Here are four of them that are located in the Midwest.

Naperville Running Company
Naperville and Wheaton, Ill.
Kris Hartner, Owner

Naperville Running Company
Naperville Running Company
CREDIT: Naperville Running Company

Number of stores: Three
Open since: 2000
Best-performing brands: New Balance, Brooks, Nike, Asics and Saucony
Fastest-growing label: New Balance
Top-selling styles: New Balance 860v7, New Balance 880v7 and Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17
Customer base: “We’re in a western suburb of Chicago — a family community — so we have lots of high school kids who run, and their parents,” said Hartner. “We hit 14- to 18-year-olds and 30- to 60-year-olds. It’s such a broad spectrum.”
Recipe for success: Hartner is a runner, but having a passion for the sport goes only so far. To keep the stores growing and thriving, he relies on a business savvy and focus he’s developed over the past two decades. “It’s hard to do this today as a hobby, so you’ve got to run it like a business,” Hartner said. “I think you can do that and not lose the spirit of what got you into this in the first place.”

Manhattan Running Company
Manhattan, Kan.
Ben Sigel, Co-Owner

Manhattan Running Company
Manhattan Running Company
CREDIT: Manhattan Running Company

Number of stores: One
Open since: 2008
Best-performing brands: “Brooks has been our No. 1 brand for the last eight years or so. And now it’s followed by Nike and Saucony,” said Sigel.
Fastest-growing label: New Balance
Top-selling styles: Brooks Adrenaline, Brooks Ghost, New Balance 860 and Asics Gel-Nimbus
Customer base: “We’re two miles from Kansas State University, so we get a lot of professors and some students. And we’re about six miles from a military base, so we get a lot of servicepeople,” Sigel said. “We also [have customers who are in] high school, especially during track or cross country season.”
Recipe for success: Manhattan Running Company began a race-timing business in 2012. “We time 80 races a year, not all of them in Manhattan, and we drive a lot of business through these events,” said Sigel. “We’re in front of our customers every weekend when we’re timing races, and they see the Manhattan Running Company inflatable [gate], tent and flags. And then people are driven to our website for the results.” That visibility helped Sigel and co-owner Trey Vernon expand: In October 2015, they relocated to a 5,500-square-foot stand-alone building a half mile away from the previous 3,500-square-foot door.

Hanson’s Running Shop
Keith Hanson, President & Co-Owner

Hanson’s Running Shop
Hanson’s Running Shop
CREDIT: Hanson’s Running Shop

Number of stores: Four
Open since: 1991
Best-performing brands: Brooks, Saucony and Asics
Fastest-growing label: Hoka One One
Top-selling styles: Brooks Ghost and Brooks Glycerin
Customer base: “Anyone who spends time on their feet or wants comfortable and functional performance clothing,” said Hanson. “Runners and walkers wanting to be professionally fitted in a comfortable shoe that allows them to enjoy their chosen activities and reduce likelihood of injury.”
Recipe for Success: “Passionate employees and continued community involvement. We have seven different group runs spread out over six days per week. We either sponsor or fully organize hundreds of runs and walks each year,” he said. “Our employees love to not just get people into the right shoe but to get to know the customers personally. We learn about what drives our customers in their fitness quest; then, through our clinics and group events, we help them achieve their personal goals.”

Columbus Running Company
Columbus, Ohio
Jim Jurcevich, Co-Owner & Footwear Buyer

Columbus Running Company
Columbus Running Company
CREDIT: Columbus Running Company

Number of stores: Four
Open since: 2004
Best-performing brands: “Brooks is our best-performing brand. While being our top-selling brand, they are still posting impressive growth.”
Fastest-growing labels: “Based on dollars, it’s Brooks. If you’re looking at percentage of sales, Hoka One One would be our fastest growing,” said Jurcevich.
Top-selling styles: Men’s neutral: Brooks Ghost, Hoka One One Bondi, Adidas Supernova. Men’s stability: Saucony Guide, Brooks Adrenaline and Ravenna. Women’s neutral: Brooks Ghost, Mizuno Rider, Hoka One One Clifton, Adidas Boston. Women’s stability: Brooks Adrenaline, Saucony Guide, New Balance 860
Customer base: “Our customers are people on a journey. They’re ready to take that first or the thousandth step,” he said. “We’re here to support them by providing advice and motivation in an open and honest atmosphere.”
Recipe for success: “As the last of the local independents in Columbus, we’ve been successful because we stay focused on our customers and empower our staff to be advocates for them,” said Jurcevich. “We’re very selective in what products we stock, as we try to find the best options out there for our customers.”

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