In an ultracompetitive marketplace, the top specialty run stores sprint past their counterparts by teaming with local charities, becoming hubs for their communities and making service a priority. Ahead of Global Running Day on Wednesday, Footwear News highlighted 12 of the best shops in the U.S. Here are four of them on the East Coast.
Sayville/Smithtown Running Company
Sayville and Smithtown, N.Y.
Brendan Barrett, Co-Owner
Number of stores: Two
Open since: 2006
Best-performing brands: Saucony and New Balance
Fastest-growing brand: “Hoka One One. They’re a little established, but I think people are still curious to try them out and see what’s different,” said Barrett.
Top-selling styles: Saucony Guide 10, New Balance 880, Mizuno Waverider
Customer base: “We do a lot with local high schools and colleges, the community road race scene and some doctor referrals for shoe fittings. Our biggest customer age range would be people in their 40s — people getting older who have more time to get back to running. We also have a pretty significant high school population.”
Recipe for success: Barrett said the stores’ success is largely attributable to their filling a void for Long Island’s residents. “There was a pretty good running community, but no hub for it. It was starving for one,” said Barrett. “There are a lot of runners close to both stores, and they like having a nice place to go. People used to have to take a long drive to get to another specialty shop before we opened on the south shore of [Sayville].”
Charm City Run
Tom Mansfield, COO
Number of stores: Seven
Open since: 2002
Best-performing brands: Brooks, Asics and Saucony
Fastest-growing label: “New Balance. They have had a great year in running,” said Mansfield.
Top-selling styles: Brooks Ghost, Adrenaline, Guide and Asics GT-2000
Customer base: “Our customers are anyone we can drive through the door,” Mansfield said. “We serve the community and try to be the hub for not only runners but anyone: walkers, runners, people who need to make a life change or are just getting started.”
Recipe for success: “We try to make a personal impact on the people we see,” he said. “Our customers don’t just get their shoes here; they learn something about themselves. They meet new friends. They train with us. They know they are part of our family.”
Bull City Running Company
Jason Page, Co-Owner
Number of stores: One
Open since: 2008
Best-performing brands: Brooks, New Balance, Altra and Saucony
Fastest-growing label: New Balance
Top-selling styles: New Balance 880, Brooks Ghost 9, Altra Torin 2.5/3, Nike Pegasus 34, Adidas Boston 6
Customer base: “A wide range of athletes,” said Page — “everyone from beginner walkers and runners to the everyday fitness enthusiast, the weekend warrior and competitive high school, collegiate and masters runners.”
Recipe for success: Page is most proud of Bull City’s in-store engagement. “The best service experience is focused on what the customer is saying, rather than what we are selling, so we can meet their needs and help provide the best solution,” he said. “We reinforce the importance of interaction over transaction with our staff.”
Big Peach Running Company
Dave Martinez, Director of Marketing
Number of stores: Eight
Open since: 2004
Best-performing brands: Brooks and Asics
Fastest-growing label: Hoka One One
Top-selling styles: Brooks Ghost and Asics Gel-Cumulus
Customer base: Predominantly females between 28 and 55 years old, many of whom are new to running.
Recipe for success: Big Peach works especially hard to cater to newcomers to the sport. “Our main guests are beginner runners,” said Martinez. “Some have been intimidated to enter a specialty running store because they feel it’s where the elite athletes go. [But] most of our staff started running as adults to become more fitness-oriented, so we make new runners feel welcome, like they’re not going to be judged.”