- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 27, 2003

The area running boom has been confirmed.

Commerce almost always mirrors a trend, and running certainly continues to grow in participation numbers from weekend joggers to hard-core marathoners.

To take advantage of this trend, several running specialty stores recently have opened, with more to follow. The most recent store — Gotta Run — opened Wednesday and is owned by national class distance star and former Reebok Enclaver Andre Williams.

And Williams’ old Enclave teammate Ray Pugsley and superb running wife Cathy, along with Cathy’s sister Margie Shapiro and husband Brendan, opened Potomac River Running Co. in Ashburn, Va., in late March and in Burke in early June.

We as runners need to support these local shops because they give back to the running community in many ways. They hire our area runners as knowledgeable employees, they sponsor area races with prizes, personnel and venues for packet pickup, and many offer running programs and group runs from their locations.

Here is a list of all the running specialty stores in the metropolitan area (Note: While I have shopped at each of these stores, I do not accept freebies or other preferential treatment):

Gotta Run (703/415-0277) — You gotta love the way Williams answers the phone: “Gotta Run!” After years at two different running stores, he has achieved the American dream and gone out on his own at Pentagon Row in Arlington. “We are doing very, very well,” Williams said after his first three days. “In our store, the customer comes in for the service, not the shoes. We have a full range of manufacturers.” He is joined by business partner and veteran runner Peter Sherry, as well as area top racer Chris Banks.

Potomac River Running Co. (703/978-0500, 703/729-0133, potomacriverrunning.com) — “What’s unique about us with respect to other stores in the D.C. area is the video gait analysis,” Brendan Shapiro explained. “You get on the treadmill, and we watch you run on TV. We have been very successful at getting the major manufacturers on board early on.” The store also employs area roadster Eric Levine and veteran Patti Shull in Ashburn, plus Georgetown standout Kelley Otstott in Burke.

Georgetown Running Co. (202/337-8626) — The store near the Key Bridge is a franchise from a New Jersey-based operation. It opened in 1999 and is managed by Matt Lotwis, brother Rob Lotwis, a George Mason University grad, former area road champ and current Nike rep. “We do gait analysis, we look at people’s mechanics,” said Matt, who has five years in the business. “We have one of the biggest selections of shoes in the area, and we do a lot for first-time marathoners.” The store employs top area racer Ben Cooke.

Fleet Feet (202/387-3888, fleetfeetdc.com) — If you don’t know Phil and Jan Fenty, you must have just moved to town. They started their Adams Morgan store in 1984 and cater to triathletes, runners, swimmers and bicyclists. “We think we do an excellent job fitting people,” said Phil, who has 52 marathons, 15 ultramarathons (including two 100-milers) and a Hawaii Ironman in his impressive portfolio. “We think we spend a lot of time with manufacturers’ reps training our staff.” You can almost always find Phil in the store.

Footsteps (703/476-1022, footstepsofreston.com) — Another accomplished area runner, Paul Zink, started this Reston store, the only one with a mini Mondo track inside, in 1993 “Our strength is the expertise of the people who work here, from high school to collegiate and older,” said manager Chip Hulbert, 39. “We have all the equipment you’ll need from 5K to ultramarathon.” The store employs top area prep and college athletes and has a strong variety of track items, mirroring the interest and success its owner once had on the oval.

Pacer’s (703/36-1463, runpacers.com) — On King Street in Old Town Alexandria, this 12-year-old store has been the site of many a packet pickup, including the GW Parkway Classic. “Our people really make us stand out,” said top area racer Chris Farley, who took over ownership a month ago. “Not only are they knowledgeable about the sport but also knowledgeable about the shoes.” Pacers does a great job with New Balance shoes, offering a variety of widths and getting fast turnaround on special orders.

RnJ Sports (301/881-0021, rnjsports.com) — If you want catalogue prices in a retail setting, this is your store. In Rockville and Bethesda, these shops found their humble beginnings as Racket & Jog some 26 years ago, the first specialty store in town. “The unique thing we offer, and I don’t think anybody [else] in the country offers, is the price we give and the expert service we give,” said owner Bob Scherf, a self-described lifelong runner. “We focus on preventing injuries with the right shoes, doing gait analysis.”

Metro Run & Walk (703/790-3338, metrorunandwalk.com) — As with the Fentys, if you don’t know the name Lea Gallardo, you’re new in town. She smartly spun off a franchise she ran in Falls Church almost three years ago into her own operation, with other locations in Springfield, Rockville and Mishawaka, Ind. “My brother lives there near South Bend and runs that store,” Gallardo said. She added the “walk” to her product lines because she believes that’s where the growth is. “We serve a very, very diverse clientele, and our staff is very, very diverse, from 20 years old to 65-plus.” Gallardo’s Falls Church store is one of the 10 largest in the nation. Plus, she said, she also has the biggest selection of running bras in the nation.

New Balance Running Stores (703/893-2771, 202/237-1840, nbwebexpress.com/help_center.htm) — With locations in Tysons Corner Mall and in Chevy Chase on Wisconsin Avenue, this store has the widest variety of New Balance shoes and apparel. “Most stores have two to six models and half of them in every width,” said partner Pat Perry, who is in business with Athlete’s Foot founder Mark Lando and longtime Athlete’s Foot franchisee John Strojney. “We stock 130 New Balance models in all widths.” They opened the Chevy Chase store three years ago and McLean in May 2002. Perry said to look for one to two more shops in 12 months, possibly near MCI Center and in Dupont Circle or in Montgomery County, and another three stores in 18 to 24 months.

I heard that Georgetown Running Co. is looking to expand, too. It is up to all of us to help them all succeed.

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