According to the New Rules Project (a program of the Institute For Local Self-Reliance), those big-box stores are hurting the economy more than they are helping. Studies have shown that that locally owned stores generate much greater benefits for the local economy than national chains. Further studies have found that big-box retailers, particularly Wal-Mart, are hurting retail employees by depressing wages and benefits. Also the arrival of a big-box retailer often displaces sales at existing businesses, which often means the smaller guys have to downsize or close. This results in job losses and declining tax revenue.
All the more reason to support your local independent running store. You may not get the huge discounts a big-box store or online shopping may offer, but I guarantee you won't get the one-on-one attention or the experience and knowledge that your local running store will provide you.
My local running store—Off'n Running Sports located at 2201 Joan Ave. Greensboro, NC—is a major hub for the running community, providing a lot more than just shoes and running gear. The other day, I stopped by the store and chatted with John Dewey (one of the owners) to find out a little more about how the store got started, what his hopes are for the store, and how he feels about the running community.
In 2002, John met Scott Basset (his Off'n Running partner) through their wives. Their spouses were in the same family residency program. John was a physical therapist and Scott was working with Wachovia in the IT Department. Both John and Scott were avid triathletes and became quick friends and began training together. Scott was tiring of the corporate world and came to John with the idea of opening a store for runners.
In 2003, Off'n Running opened in its original location on Pisgah Church Rd. John had physical therapy as a safety net as the store got on its feet. He was working 3 days at his PT job and 4 days at the store. As the business began to grow his PT hours decreased. He still fills in at his old physical therapy job when they need him.
As the business grew, one natural extension was providing race timing and race management services. Scott went into business with Eddie Miller and formed Off'n Running Race Productions. This side of the business has really taken off with over 50 races a year. Scott is now the sole owner of Off'n Running Race Productions.
Scott's race management business is based out of the same location as the store so John and Scott still see a lot of each other, but each have found their niche—John with the store and Scott with race management.
About a year ago, John and Scott moved to their new and bigger location (a free-standing building) on Joan Avenue, just around the corner from the original location. The space they originally leased was slated to be demolished as a newer strip mall was being planned. I was saddened to hear they had to find a new home, because the original location was just a few blocks from one of Greensboro's major parks as well as in close proximity to several greenways. This great location was perfect for group runs from the store. Luckily the building on Joan Ave. became available and it's even closer to the park as well as on the same side of the street!
Future plans? John is very happy with the store's new location, but as some point he'd like to see the opening of a satellite store, maybe in a smaller neighboring community. With the state of the economy, he doesn't see that happening in the near future, but it is an idea he hopes comes to fruition some day.
The services that the store provides from knowledgeable clerks, to group runs, to in-store yoga classes are a big draw for the running community. The store offers a variety of group runs from Women's Night, to a Beginning Runners Group, to their all-call Thursday evening group run. Last summer it was not uncommon to see 40-50 runners standing around the storefront on a Thursday evening around 6:00 waiting for the 6:15 run to start. This group run consists of some of the most elite runners in the area all the way to the beginners. That's what makes this group run so cool. From the novice to the old pro, all are welcome and runner's camaraderie abounds.
I asked John how he felt about the runners in the community. He responded, "They are really, really special people." John was extremely touched by the running community during the move to the new store. The move took place on a Sunday and they weren't sure if they should close the old store and then get some family over to help move the shelving to the new store or what. They figured it would be an all-day affair. But the running community came to the rescue bringing a big box truck as well as manual labor and by 5:00 that afternoon, the old store was vacated and closed and everything was in the new store. John said he and Scott "can't thank the local runners enough for what they did for us that day."
The runners that frequent the shop as well as the group runs and other workshops and programs sponsored by the store have become like family to John. He knows about their families, their jobs, their stresses, their celebrations. One of the Thursday night runners (Emily) even met her husband through the group runs.
John hopes to provide more and more programs and guest speakers for customers like the Safety for Women at Night presented by a local police officer, and Suzanne Duncan's in-store yoga class that meets every Monday Night.
If you live in Greensboro, NC or the surrounding Triad area, make sure you frequent Off'n Running often. They provide a great array of running shoes and running gear. They also provide in-store gate analysis to help determine your foot strike and then help you select the best shoe for your needs. Also check out their website where you'll find several useful tools such as:
• Training Programs
• Places to Run
• Injury Prevention
• Training Plans
• Predicted Time Calculator
• Pace Calculator
• Triathlon Pace Calculator
• Distance Conversion Calculator
• Calorie Counter
• and much more!
Do you have a favorite independent running store in your town? If so, leave a comment and tell us about your favortie store, it's name, city, state, and a little about why it's so special. Great free advertising for your favorite running store!