Columbus, Ohio USA
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Run With It
Columbus Running Company steps into the Short North community
By Cynthia Bent Findlay
May/June 2014 Issue
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Living in the Short North can be tough on the waistline, between Le Chocoholique, Jeni’s, and more good restaurants per block than anywhere in the state, but a new store in the heart of the Short North promises to help shoppers work off the Short North “fat tax.”
Outreach Director Joey Mayo (left), co-owner Jim Jurcevich, and the amazing flying running shoe. Photo © Larry Hamill
Columbus Running Company (CRC), one of the oldest retail running outlets in the Central Ohio area, opened its doors at its fourth location, 765 N. High, in early April. CRC’s Dublin store has been a hub of the local running community for a decade – celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
The new Short North location has long been on CRC’s list of priorities, says co-founder and owner Jim Jurcevich.
Jurcevich and two partners, Eric Fruth and Matt DeLeon, began CRC out of a passion for running. Columbus Running Company was recognized as one of the 50 Best Running Stores in the US by Competitor Magazine in 2012 and 2013.
“We’ve been looking to be downtown for more than a year now,” says Jurevich, “but we couldn’t find space in the right spot. When we found Sole Classics was moving, we moved pretty quickly to get to this spot.”
Shoes, athletic apparel, and other products for runners are all, of course, CRC’s mainstays, but serving the running community in as many ways as possible is the company’s real mission, says co-owner Eric Fruth.
The small chain sponsors a race team, hosts regular friendly group runs, a training group which raises funds for charity, and holds scores of events every year.
“That’s been the most fun,” Fruth says. “A couple of years ago we had three running group weddings in five weeks. People meet spouses, the best man, lifelong friends at our running groups. That’s what really makes this job rewarding. Just selling shoes… you can sell anything. Being involved in a community is much, much bigger.”
He and Jurcevich say they feel the store fits right in with the Short North because of that community involvement. The store also makes space for art during Gallery Hop. The Columbus Half Marathon flowed right past the store in April as well, and the store hosted a large cheer station.
The shop has already hosted a pub run, during which runners can test a pair of a sponsoring company’s shoes on a test jog and then after adjourn to a local bar. Fruth says he’s also looking forward to more such events.
“We’re hoping to be a good neighbor to the bars and restaurants here,” he laughs.
“I think sometimes people assume runners are ultra healthy while in reality I think most do it so they can eat and drink what they want!”
Fruth and Jurcevich say the Short North’s demographic of young, socially involved urban professionals fits right in with the business’s vision.
Running participation, especially participation in timed races, has skyrocketed over the past ten years, according to Running USA, a Colorado Springs-based nonprofit that tracks the state of running as a sport in the US. They cite a more than 17 percent growth in 5K participation and almost 15 percent rise in half marathon runs from 2011 to 2012, the latest year for which figures are available. Those statistics surely ring true for the Short North and many other urban Columbus neighborhoods which have seen an explosion in urban foot-racing over the past few years.
In fact, Running USA has dubbed the sharp growth in running “the Second Running Boom.” The first would refer to the spread of the sport’s popularity in the 1970s. Now, novelty-type group runs such as the Color Run and Tough Mudder events have helped put running shoes on couch potatoes across the country, says the group’s 2013 State of the Sport report.
“This is about how everyone can lace up a pair of shoes, go out and cover that mile,” Fruth says. “It’s more about self empowerment, something anyone can do and feel better both physically and mentally. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, it’s easily accessible anywhere.”
The brick and mortar stores are doing well, say Fruth and Jurcevich. Though CRC does have an online store, new running shoes appear on the shelves almost every month. Runners need to try shoes on to get a feel for them. The sport isn’t well suited for a sight-unseen Internet purchase.
There are also so many new shoes on the market that it helps to have the expertise of a well-trained staff to help people find the best shoe for their running style.
“So opening a retail store 10 years ago doesn’t sound like it would have been good timing,” Fruth says, “but for us it worked out really well.”
Already the Short North has been a good financial fit for Columbus Running Company.
Fruth says local traffic into the Short North location has been as expected, but a regular stream of out-of-town shoppers from the Convention Center crowd has
provided an unpredicted boost.
“A shoe in America that costs $100, it turns out in Europe will market for $300, for $200 in Canada,” Fruth says. “Every time I’ve worked [at the Short North store] on a weekend we’ve had Canadians and Europeans come in and they’ve been great customers.”
So if you’re in the market for a new shoe, a new group of friends to inspire a healthy hobby, or a new excuse to “run and grab a beer,” Columbus Running Company is now just a short jog away.
Columbus Running Company is located at 765 N. High St. Call 614-947-7717 or visit www.columbusrunning.com for more information about events and inventory.
© 2014 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.
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