It’s no secret that it’s taken a while for us to get our doors open. “A while” might be an understatement. In fact, we’re probably starting to look like the store that cried “opening!”. Last week we were certain Saturday the 23rd was our big day. My ever so patient and eager staff cleared out their schedules, tied up their laces, and moved and unloaded more boxes than I have in the 8 times I’ve moved in my adult life. As a manager/athlete/living being, you can’t help but geek out at the power of human forces coming together to make something big happen. Early mornings, late evenings, cut up knuckles and bruised shins – I looked up at some point mid-week and just thought “I’m so pumped to get these doors open, because I have one awesomely dedicated team.”
If you’ve ever been a part of opening a store, whether it’s your own or just one you just happen to work for, then I’m certain you know the physical and emotional stress it entails. If you haven’t, then try to understand that it’s like moving into a new home and needing to get settled in as quickly as possible – only your paycheck depends upon it.
This is by no means a ploy to cue the violins. Sharing this experience, I simply intended to humanize the proverbial big bad wolf that just moved into town. We’re just a bunch of runners and athletes looking to make a living doing what we love – and it is with good fortune that we are able to do so with a fairly sizable corporate backing. For most of us (staff) that simply means: affordable health care, 401K options, paid time off, and bit more economic mobility. It has become apparent, however, that for the rest of us (consumers) – it means something different. It means “big business”. It means greed. It means a lack of humanity. It might even mean putting others out of business.
Stereotypes. They’re pretty powerful, huh?
So powerful that reading the recent article posted about us on hobken411 actually made me anxious. Apparently, “ignorant “runners” and “joggers” seem to be sold by the strong branding & marketing presence [we] have, and have become loyal customers hook, line and sinker (it’s that pseudo über-athlete mentality that clouds all sensible judgment).” I’ll spare you an academic dissection of the article’s (mis)information – you can read it for yourself. I will, however, defend my store, my employees, and our customers (I can’t recall any that would self-identify with “ignorant”, and who says “jogger” other than Ron Burgundy??).
Competition makes the world go ’round. It’s what forces us to be better. To be our best. To learn more, grow more, and set big goals. We are wholly aware that Fleet Feet-Hoboken is merely blocks away – most of our employees, including myself, have shopped there. They’re incredibly kind and passionate people with loyal fans, and have clearly worked hard over the years to build their franchise and truly make it their own. I look forward to having this constant reminder to be the best we can be – for how is anyone to be the best without a point of comparison?
And speaking of comparisons:
A quick history: The Running Company Stores (now known as Run Specialty Group) were only recently sold to Finishline – prior to that, we were just a small private chain that was New Jersey owned and operated, with a few stores outside of the NY/NJ area. In March 2012, we experienced a back-end management change after Finishline partnered with Gart Companies. While there is no question that we are expanding at a rapid rate – there should also be no question that we are functioning just as we always have. We offer the same quality of services, have maintained nearly all of our original staff, and are proud to have kept a devoted customer base.
Similarities abound, and it is interesting to read in a recent article from Running Insight that: “Eighteen months ago Fleet Feet underwent a management buyout in conjunction with Investors Management Corp. Since then, it has opened its 100th store and embarked on a campaign to get existing stores to convert to Fleet Feet by offering back-end support that is attractive to entrepreneurs who love product and marketing but are occasionally baffled by numbers. Fleet Feet could double its numbers in the next five years…”
I think it’s safe to say there is a lot to learn about both stores.
Right now, we’re just looking forward to getting those doors open and finding our place in the community.
Jessie LaPointe (Hoboken Store Manager, formerly of The Westfield Running Company)