On a busy strip of Bloor Avenue West, recognized for high-calorie meals (St. Louis Wings) and carb heavy delights (Cobs Bread), the Runners Store could appear to be an outlier as a fitness-focused hub for runners and walkers. However there’s fewer locations they’d relatively be.
After 45 years in a basement house throughout from the Royal Ontario Museum, the Runners Store relocated greater than two years in the past, aboveground, to 374 Bloor St. W., within the coronary heart of the Annex.
“It was time to maneuver,” says Lynn Bourque, who has owned the store since 2018. “We were surrounded by construction due to the Park Hyatt renovations and condos going up, and I needed to place a recent face on the shop.”
(Examine different Toronto Landmarks comparable to Gwartzman’s, the Chinatown staple and the Revue, Toronto’s oldest operating movie theatre.)
Now daylight shines by way of the entrance window shows, glinting off the fluorescent sneakers and framed photographs of star athletes comparable to sprinter Andre De Grasse and marathon record-holder Silvia Ruegger.
The shop sells greater than 80 completely different sneakers, in addition to moisture-wicking tops, shorts and socks in dozens of kinds, hats and visors, and a smattering of vitality chews and gels. Established in 1975 by Olympic athlete and elite runner Dave Ellis, the impartial retailer provides choices for cross-country, distance, observe and concrete runners, and gives teaching for these trying to take part in distance runs and marathons.
Bourque first bought acquainted with the Runners Store as a buyer and run-club fanatic within the ’80s and continued to buy there when she was a server at Canoe and the Ritz-Carlton Lodge within the ’90s and early ’00s. She had been chatting in 2017 with Elaine McCrea, a aggressive runner who had taken over from Ellis in 1997.
“I used to be prepared to maneuver on from hospitality,” Bourque remembers. “She was prepared to maneuver on too, and I used to be wanting ahead to a problem.”
As one of many longest-running retailers on Bloor West, the Runners Retailer “was at all times well-known among the many runner neighborhood,” Bourque says. “And it was one of many pioneers as a specialty-shop retailer.”
A number of prospects wander in on a Tuesday morning. One younger girl takes off her sneakers so a staffer can choose her gait, how she walks and runs, to greatest decide the fitting pair.
“That is the non-public contact we now have right here,” Bourque says. “The massive factor for us has at all times been customer support and experience of the people who find themselves promoting the sneakers. Now we have individuals working right here who’re runners, who do marathons, and they also’ve seen all of it. We’ll have runners are available and say they’ve a very sore foot or a foul knee, and no one at (some main retailers) goes to have the ability to deal with that harm with a really perfect shoe for them.”
Bourque, additionally a long-time marathon and concrete runner, exemplifies the form of experience prospects anticipate. Holding up one of many store’s hottest sneakers, the Ghost by Brooks, she says, “What you need in a operating shoe are two important issues: cushioning and vitality return. The foams within the shoe are developed or constructed to present you one thing again. What you need is a trampoline on your foot, mainly.”
The shop is getting busier as we chat, with a number of prospects shopping for metallic spikes for the underside of their sneakers, to run extra safely on wintery sidewalks. Requested how enterprise has been in the course of the pandemic, Bourque smiles and says that with out of doors train changing into extra prevalent up to now two years, the shop has seen a 50 per cent enhance over its days on the earlier location. “We’re servicing many walkers,” she says, “individuals who simply need comfy sneakers for walks as an alternative of runs.”
Borque factors out one other main change from the Runners Store’s early days. “Working was a male sport,” she says, “and one thing individuals did to see how lengthy it took them to finish a run. Now, so many extra ladies are taking part, so many individuals are operating recreationally, and it’s actually fulfilling to be a part of lots of people’s lives and to present them the steering they may want.”
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