Competitor Magazine announced the Top 50 Best Running Stores last week in Austin, Texas at The Running Event. What they lack in creative event naming, they make up for in the ability to recognize talent in the world of endurance sports, three of the top 50 shops are right here in the Chicago area.
Three stores in Illinois made it into the Top 50 - Naperville Running Company, taking the top spot in the country! Runners High 'n Tri, located in Arlington Heights and Fleet Feet Sports, Chicago, making it into the Big Four.
"We're honored to be part of the top running specialty stores and certainly in great company," said Mark Rouse, co-owner of Runners High 'n Tri and 13-time Ironman finisher. "I appreciate our loyal customers, who provide great support and energy at Runners High 'n Tri."
"Being recognized by our peers as one of the Big Four is a great honor," said Dave Zimmer, owner of Fleet Feet Sports. "When Lisa and I opened our doors for the first time in 1997, our mission was to inspire people to run, walk and be fit. Throughout the past 13 years, our business has grown and changed and we've taken on new challenges, but all along we've focused on staying true to that mission."
The Running Event is organized by Formula4 Media, LLC and the awards program is presented by The Running Network. The awards process started early in 2007 when The Running Network ran a full-page ballot in its spring Shoe Review, soliciting feedback from consumers on their favorite running stores. More than 200 stores received nominations and a panel of industry experts from Franklin Resource Group visited each nominated store to evaluate it on 20 different aspects of retailing, including product knowledge, environment and community involvement.
The nomination and voting consisted of a year-long evaluation, including "secret shopping," customer feedback and vendor relations. Stores were immediately eliminated for heckling the customers or recommending stilettos for a marathon.
Congratulations to all three stores and their excellent staffs for keeping us on our feet.
Molly Lynch is guest blogger for ChicagoNow's Pace of Chicago. You can find her on Twitter and frequently shopping at Runners High 'n Tri in downtown Arlington Heights.