Written by Megan Barrett
Monday, 28 January 2013 09:01
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!
Written by Gary Skulnik
Wednesday, 23 January 2013 15:13
Talking green and walking green are two completely separate activities and rare is the company that can master both. The fight to bring offshore wind to Maryland illustrates this point perfectly. There are literally dozens of energy suppliers listed on the Maryland Public Service Commission website, and most offer some form of green energy as an option. But how many will come out to lobby for Governor O'Malley's offshore wind bill? Besides Clean Currents, the answer is likely to be zero.
This is a troubling phenomenon. Many in the public may purchase wind power from companies that work to prevent laws that would spur rapid growth of wind. This issue is too important to gloss over. Scientists (and our own experience) tell us that the climate is rapidly changing at the same time the concentration of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels is rapidly accumulating in our atmosphere. We need to move as quickly as we can to reduce our use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas while increasing our use of zero emission renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.
Consumers are leading the way with more and more people buying wind power for their homes, businesses, schools, faith institutions and non profits. Indeed, the voluntary market is responsible for much of the growth of the wind industry in recent years. But to make the transition from fossil fuels as rapidly as we need to, we need forward looking laws that mandate more renewable energy use.
I'm proud to have been one of the authors of Maryland's landmark Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) back in 2004. It set a framework with clear rules and mandates, and let the free market do the rest. The offshore wind bill fits squarely into this framework. It will require any company that sells electricity in Maryland to get a certain percentage of power from offshore wind projects. This requirement gives the offshore wind developers the assurance they need to get financing to build their projects.
The cost is minimal (maximum $1.50/month for a resident). The potential economic benefits are huge. Unlike other products, the supply chain for wind turbines needs to exist close to the source of the projects, to keep transportation costs low. Thus, the bill offers a chance for good manufacturing jobs right here in Maryland. Combined with increased energy efficiency, developing wind power is a direct way to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution. This is your classic, win-win proposition. No wonder that strong majorities of Marylanders support this bill, according to very recent polling.
This is the year Maryland can take a step forward towards a clean energy future and the Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 is one giant leap in the right direction. Clean Currents fully supports this bill and we applaud Governor O'Malley's leadership in working to bring it to this point.
I call on other energy suppliers that supply green power to join us in standing firm with our colleagues in the environmental, faith, labor and business advocacy world in support of offshore wind power in Maryland. You can't be authentic if you sell wind power on the one hand, but do nothing to support, and sometimes actively oppose, the development of wind off Maryland's coast. I offer Clean Currents' help to educate the public about the importance of this bill and the importance of Maryland taking it's next big step towards a cleaner, greener, future free of the threat of climate change and air pollution.
Written by Megan Barrett
Friday, 18 January 2013 17:34
Photo courtesy of Geppetto Catering
Wind powered Geppetto Catering is going where many of us only dream of this weekend -- catering inaugural celebrations in Washington, DC. For events taking place in and around Lafayette Square, they will be dishing out elegant and creative foods including Blueberry and Cheese Pancakes, Chicken and Lamb Gyros and Mushroom Encrusted Salmon. So, just in case you weren't already jealous of the lucky event attendees getting all gussied up this weekend, we've just given you a big reason to be!
In addition to being wind powered, Geppetto sources from local farms including Groff's Content Farm, TGIF Farms and Blades Orchard. They also provide biodegradable and sustainable service ware to clients, helping them reduce their impact while enjoying delicious food.
Written by Megan Barrett
Friday, 18 January 2013 12:30
Katie Cook in Mendoza, Argentina
I interviewed Katie Cook, first time participant in CCAN's 8th Annual Keep Winter Cold Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday, January 26th. Find out what motivates her to jump into the Potomac River in the middle of January.
MB: Tell me a bit about you, and why you are passionate about sustainability?
KC: I can't imagine anything more important than ensuring that our planet can sustain itself and us. In the end, sustainability is about keeping ourselves alive and well. It's scary to think that ice packs are disappearing and what that could mean for ecological diversity. And seeing what is happening with the climate itself - droughts, floods, increasingly destructive weather - is alarming and has so many terrible and global consequences. Just watching the news is enough motivation to take action on climate change!
MB: Why is clean energy important to you?
KC: Clean energy is where the focus should really be in my opinion. Making energy can either be a polluting, global warming-inducing endeavor or the exact opposite: a low or no-impact process that draws on existing and abundant resources that don't leave a carbon footprint and promote energy independence. There are so many benefits to clean energy - both from an environmental standpoint and from a democracy and human rights perspective.
MB: Tell me about CCAN's Polar Bear Plunge and why you are participating. Have you done anything like this before?
KC: I've heard really good things about CCAN and their work to promote sustainable energy in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC region. They've successfully fought to shut down coal power plants and advocated for the creation of wind and solar energy sites. It's exciting to feel like I'm part of something that advances those kinds of efforts. I've never done a Polar Bear Plunge, and I'm excited to take a cold dip. Some people contend that I could catch a cold, but I disagree - I've read that studies indicate cold water is GOOD for the immune system. Here's to more white blood cells!
MB: I've heard you're motivating your community to participate as well. How so?
KC: I'm doing the Plunge as part of the "Green Souls" - a wonderful and active group of eco-minded members of my church, All Souls Unitarian Church in Columbia Heights. That's why we're called "The All Souls Plungers." The church community has been very supportive. I've also been telling my co-workers about the Plunge, sending out emails to friends and family, and posting on Facebook. People are intrigued that some are willingly jumping into the Potomac in the winter. Some are eager to join me in the Plunge, while others are more apt to sponsor a Plunger. I think it's great that the process just involves starting conversations about climate change and what a great organization CCAN is.
MB: What is your favorite part of being involved with the Polar Bear Plunge thus far?
KC: The best part so far has been talking with people about the Plunge. It's encouraging and inspiring to see how many people really care about addressing climate change. And getting the word out has also been entertaining. Someone suggested today that one way to let people know would be to make an announcement at church in a bathing suit and flip-flops... I think I'll recruit another Plunger to do that!
MB: Are you doing anything to get ready for the big day, like filling your tub with ice cubes and jumping in?
KC: How did you know? I've been stocking up on ice from the supermarket and laying in it for hours on end. Just kidding. Actually, I've tried turning the temperature of my shower down a little bit, but just a little bit each day. By the time of the Plunge, I'm calculating that the temperature will be down to just above freezing. Ha ha.
MB: Why would you encourage others to get involved with the plunge?
KC: I think it's a combination of having the experience of doing something crazy and taking action for such a great cause. Consider it one more thing to check off your bucket list. Plus, it's one thing to do something crazy alone, but it's a lot more fun to do crazy things in groups. I'm looking forward to teasing my fellow plungers about their screams at the cold water or their funny bathing suits for the next 12 months at least.
Learn more about CCAN and the Polar Bear Plunge. Want to support Katie? Contribute to her team or come out to cheer her on!