Alberta has fallen on hard times the past few years with many having felt these effects and particularly small business owners. Countless Albertan consumers have lost their jobs or had their hours cut leading to less funds to spend on consumer items like running shoes and gear. It would be a real shame that by the time the economy sorted itself out one or more of the treasured Alberta independent running stores might close shop succumbing to the enormous pressure put upon them at this time. The national and international chain stores have an incredible leg up on the competition to the point that a regional economic downturn will certainly not result in these companies going under.
I’ve preached to my friends for years the numerous benefits of shopping local. The obvious is the fact that when you shop local the money stays in the community, roughly 70% compared to the low 30% with the chain retailers. The inventory is also a huge bonus as the large retailers only carry a small range of sizes. So if you are smaller than a men’s size 8.5 or larger then a 12 you are out of luck. Whereas Gord’s Running Store will carry sizes 6 through 16 in all widths. Included in the inventory are the options of clothing that break away from the cookie cutter jackets, shirts and bottoms. Jeanette Deere, part owner of Strides Running Store and former national level middle distance runner, orders all the women’s apparel including the undergarments for the unique Calgary weather patterns. Locals know this just makes sense.
A friend of mine went into a running chain retailer last month asking if they had the New Balance Zante in her size. After asking my friend what distance of a race she was training for, the young salesperson refused to bring out the shoe trying to convince my friend that this shoe was a short distance shoe and isn’t designed to handle running a marathon. THIS IS A DISTANCE SHOE and is my preferred shoe for 24 hour racing (260-ish kms)! Now can you imagine receiving this advice in an independent store like Gord’s Running Store, Strides Running Store, Fast Trax, or Runners Soul either from one of the owners (they seem to live there) or a staff member under careful oversight.
|Gord’s store front|
Gord’s Running Store in Calgary has been serving Calgary runners for the past 27 years. Owner Gord Hobbins works meticulously to insure top of the line customer service, a wide range of product and a feeling of travelling back in time when a store owner would welcome you into his store as if he was welcoming you into his home. Gord prides himself in offering a satisfaction guarantee so you can take your shoes home, run indoors or on a treadmill and if the shoes don’t feel quite right just bring the non soiled shoes back in to swap them out. Good luck finding this service at a large retailer. On a personal note, I’ve been sponsored by Gord’s for 5 years. I am generally uncomfortable with sponsorship or ambassadorship as I find it’s an obvious ego stroke and pigeon holes oneself as an athlete. When Gord and I spoke about this years ago I asked him what he’d like in return. I’ll never forget his response; he said he wanted me to motivate others in the running community, act as a positive role model, and most importantly keep smiling and have fun out there.
Strides Running Store in Calgary is owned and operated by Jeremy and Jeanette Deere. Other than being a couple of the finest people I know, they are passionate about sharing their love for this sport with anyone willing to listen. Jeremy is a local running giant winning the Mother’s Day 10K 17,000 times and even still at the youthful age of 41 still flirts with the sub 15 min 5K. They have assembled an energetic and knowledgeable staff in their two locations. A general misnomer that stores like Strides are for elites and the chain retailers are better suited for the beginner runner is completely false. The Strides staff are extraordinarily welcoming and more than happy to answer all inquires from the detail oriented questions towards gear or more beginner questions like “How do I train for my first 5K?”
The other two locally owned and independent stores I’d like to draw attention to is Fast Trax in Edmonton owned by local guru Jack Cook and Runners Soul in Lethbridge owned by local enthusiasts Erin and Shawn Pinder. I’ve had brief experiences at these stores and much like Gord’s and Strides they had the same excellent feel embodying their local running community spirit. I challenge the local bloggers in Edmonton and Lethbridge to pay it forward and give their local independent running store the respect and attention it’s been giving its customers for the past many years.