By Tracy Records
West Seattle Blog Editor
51,318 pairs of shoes.
How much is it West Seattle Runner has sold in the last 13 years.
The total is sure to rise over the next three days as West Seattle’s only running store — a longtime WSB sponsor — celebrates its 13th anniversary with a sale and other events.
We visited the store this week to chat with the co-owners Tim and Lori McConnell, whom we first met in February 2009, in an interview for this article about their plans to open the store. At the time, they weren’t just working on their original boutique space – to Charlestown Centerfrom where they moved to 2743 California SW six years later – but also inviting name suggestions.
West Seattle Runner’s location isn’t all that has changed over the years. But as an entrepreneur, what sticks with you might not be the first thing anyone else would guess. For example: “We’re on our third dog,” Tim says, shortly after we ask for souvenirs.
After a side conversation about pets, Lori notes that they founded the West Seattle 5K Floating Dodger running/walking two years after the store opened; it became a pre-Grand Parade tradition. Events large and small are embedded in West Seattle Runner’s role in the community as more than a place to shop for shoes and other gear. They started very early to organize group races, including fun special events such as the Christmas lights race – three group races are part of this weekend’s anniversary festivities – and it wasn’t long before they added the Get fit west of Seattle program (which takes participants from “couch to half marathon”).
Events and other community involvements seem to be a big reason why West Seattle Runner thrives in a world where so much shopping has moved online. Even during the pandemic shutdown period, they were hosting weekly online events to connect and communicate with community members. They continued to look for ways to intensify the bond – Tim notes the medal display created behind the counter, where they can show off the running medals that customers are so proud to show them.
“That’s why you go into business – to improve your community,” not just to sell merchandise. (The medal holder is far from the only custom feature they’ve had over the years – even before the pandemic lockdown, Tim offered protection – “like a sneeze guard” – before she does not become widespread in companies. “It was my concept!”)
Now they’re thinking about 13 – “ONLY thirteen, and ‘only’ THIRTEEN?” they laugh – “I don’t think we could have imagined what it would be like,” observes Lori. They saw customers’ children entering the store, first as school children and eventually as students. They watched once-teenage employees grow up and move on. “At some point, we’re going to (hire someone) who wasn’t even born when we started!” marvels Tim.
Another not-so-secret element of their success is partnering with brands, which means they and their staff receive training that they can share with customers. This interaction may be one of the main reasons why they haven’t suffered from “showrooming” – people coming to see and handle a product that they then buy elsewhere online – as much as some companies. “Our customers appreciate the resource,” notes Tim. The brand partnership also brings group runs where you can actually try shoes on before you buy them.
The brands they wore also changed and evolved – “lots of new brands! notes Tim – and they stay on top of the trends. “Recovery sandals” are big now, for example, and you’ll see colorful options towards the front of the store.
They wear Birkenstock now too. And it’s a reminder that you don’t have to be a runner to find something potentially useful in West Seattle Runner. And there’s one overriding rule: “People should know that their feet should never hurt them,” says Tim. “If your feet hurt, you should come see us.”
Other parts of the body too – West Seattle Runner frequently partners with local chiropractic and physical therapy practices – like sponsor WSB Lake Washington Physical Therapy‘s West Seattle office – to offer free seminars and consultations. “We like to partner with local businesses.”
You will see some of these partnerships during the anniversary celebration from today to Sunday. Here is the schedule:
FRIDAY (today) – Anniversary Sale; shop open until 6 p.m. Group race with hoka demos at 6:15 p.m. – beer junction keg and root beer afterwards.
SATURDAY: Anniversary sale; shop open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Group race with Other demos at 8 a.m. – chocolate milk and donuts afterwards. Bemer demos at the store all day.
SUNDAY: Anniversary sale; shop open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Group race with Sauconia demos at 10 a.m. – mimosas and sparkling cider afterwards. Bemer demos at the store all day.
And beyond this weekend, the McConnells are looking forward to the next one 5K Dodger Float on July 22, a fundraiser again this year for the West Seattle Food Bank – “We always need sponsors, volunteers and participants!
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