Fleet Feet's Winter Warriors training group
Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg recently became a Clean Currents wind powered business. We sat down with owners, Robyn and Chris Gault to learn how they took their running groups from 2 to 60 people, what their favorite running movies are, and how they came to be named one of the top 50 running stores in the US.
Why did you decide to open Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg?
Before opening Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg, Robyn and I were spending 12+ hour days working and commuting to downtown DC. We were not spending enough time with our son, and were growing tired of working in an office environment. We wanted to work closer to home so we could spend more time with our son. And, we wanted to start our own business where we could help people.
As we were thinking about our passions, we naturally began talking about running -- which is actually how we met. We would always get our running shoes from the Adams Morgan Fleet Feet, and it felt like a business that we could enjoy being a part of. So, we dove in and opened our own Fleet Feet Sports!
How do you get involved with the community?
When we opened Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg, we wanted to help people. We wanted to be that place where people go when they're not at home and they're not at work -- their third place. So, we started doing free Fun Runs on Thursdays and Saturdays. When we first opened, we would only have 1 or 2 people come out, but now we regularly see 60-80 people for each run in the spring and summer, and 40 -- 60 in the winter. And, overtime these people have become great friends - we'll even go out for a drink or some pizza at Coal Fire after.
We also offer training programs where people can get ready for a 5K race all the way up to a full marathon. We really enjoy helping people who have never run before build a healthier lifestyle. We also partner with a lot of charities including Girls on the Run of Montgomery County, Avon 2 Day Walk, and we host a Critters for the Cure 5K run from our store.
We've found that people who come into the store aren't just customers, but also friends.
You were recently named one of the 50 best running stores in the country. What has helped you be so successful in just 8 years?
We very intentionally have a welcoming vibe. We're not elitist; rather we focus on catering to every level of runner (and walker!). As we mentioned, we want to be people's third place. We really get to know the people that come in the store. We want them to feel comfortable and welcome here.
We also have events in the store. We host KT Tape Tuesdays and Electronics Mondays to help people with their gadgets like the GPS on their watches. On Trigger Point Thursdays, we show people Trigger Point stretches and exercises to help them stay injury free. We also host info sessions during the triathlon season including bringing in experts, informing people on what they should bring, how to change a tire on their bike, and more.
We also host ticketed events in the store, like fashion shows, where the proceeds go to our charity partners. By hosting events we encourage people to come into the store and keep people engaged with us, and their running habits.
How would you convince someone who had never run before to try it out?
The first thing we would tell someone is that they need a plan. Don't just go out and start running. Either take one of our programs or find your own plan, but know where you are heading.
Then, we need to talk about proper sports wear from shoes to sports bras and other apparel. We would help them find things that would make them the most successful in their training. Of course, we would invite them to join us for Fun Runs and make sure they felt they could come in anytime with questions.
How would you motivate someone who previously ran get back into it? We would actually tell them many of the same things we tell our new runners. We would talk to them about the Fun Runs, tell them to take it slow and steady and to have a plan in place. Also, we would warn them not to try to come back at the level where they were in the past, but to be patient and rebuild their running habit.
As a runner, it's easy to get caught up in the idea of needing to go farther or faster each time you go out. But, if you take that method, you will eventually burn out because you are putting pressure on yourself to do better each time. If you can get to the point where you feel like you're not doing enough and you want to go out and add some mileage or go faster, that's a really motivating thing.
Tell me a bit about your fitting process.
The most important part of our fitting process is the interview we do with each customer. We find out what they're doing, because a person who is walking through the neighborhood has completely different needs for their shoes than someone training for a marathon.
We have a really in depth fitting process, and this video explains how it all works.
Why did you choose to power your store with local wind power?
As runners, we are out exploring the environment all the time. We want to preserve it so we can continue enjoying it. We want to adopt practices that can help keep our beautiful environment around for us and our children, and generations to come.
Why do you think it's important for small businesses to run on local wind power?
A small business gets involved in the community, and is responsible to the community. So, when we make decisions we think about what is the responsible thing to do for us and for the community. We actually specifically chose Clean Currents because it's a local business, and we think it's important for local businesses to support one another.
What values are important to your business that you feel are also reflected by Clean Currents?
From the first time we met with Clean Currents, we understood the culture behind the company. We also heard that you are a bunch of runners, which is great! We connected with what Clean Currents stands for, which really helped us feel comfortable doing business together. It's clear that Clean Currents isn't just here to get the business, but really wants to make the world a better place.
What are some of your favorite places to run in the Gaithersburg area?
Recently, we've been doing some nighttime runs around the monuments in DC, which is really beautiful. More locally, we are really lucky, because Montgomery County has lots of paved running trails. Needwood Park, Capital Crescent Trail, the C&O Canal, Green Lake Trail, and Seneca State Park are some of our favorite places.
What are your favorite running movies?
Chariots of Fire, Cool Runnings, and Forrest Gump!
Favorite running books?
My Life on the Run by Bart Yasso: Stories of the different places he ran from Antarctica to Africa.
Iron Heart by Brian Boyle: True story of Brian Boyle, who was in a terrible car accident and came back from it do to the Iron Man in Hawaii.
Running for Mortals by John Bigham: A lighthearted look at how to integrate running into a busy life -- and how to run for the fun of it
What is the best part of owning a running store?
The freedom to make decisions without bureaucracy and instantly make things happen. We can bring in any product we want, host events we want to host, and partner with great community organizations.
We also love running with the fun runners on Thursday nights!
We are really lucky that the community has supported us and we are so grateful for the customers we have. It's amazing to see people that we have built true friendships with come through the store all the time. I mean, we have a bin filled with keys and wallets during the Fun Run -- people leave their personal belongings with us because they trust us - and feel like part of us. It's really an honor and an inspiration to be a part of.
Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg is 100% local wind powered by Clean Currents. To celebrate, we're giving away 2 - $25 gift cards per day, Monday -- Friday this week on our Facebook page. Don't miss out!