Run On Hudson Valley: Ben Drew
Even in its trial run, Run On Hudson Valley provides a sense of community and is spreading the knowledge and passion of the sport to all levels of runners. It has a slight runner-geek quirkiness to it, but running culture is what puts this specialty store in the running for the best and least intimidating place to learn about training for your first race, whether it’s a 5K or full on marathon. Owner Ben Drew, business partner Ian Golden and manager/ultra-runner Brad Lombardi eat, sleep and breathe running. Their stock includes shoes you can’t get anywhere else. Between them and the coaches and sports medicine experts they have on tap, they can answer questions about health, injuries, rehab and recovery. Run On offers runs, training and special events on a regular basis. You wouldn’t go to a bakery to get an oil change or new windshield wipers, would you? So there’s no sense going to a store that sells football and hockey gear to buy running shoes and apparel.
Community Capital gave Ben a small business loan of $50,000 as he raced to open an immediately understandable business selling running shoes–a touchable, usable, physical thing that can be used for fun, exercise, transportation and just plain getting outside and interacting with the green around us. When an economy built on high speed communication and transportation slowed down, Ben wanted to find a way to live without succumbing to 60 hour per week jobs with crazy car commutes, move up or out cultures, and the general lack of tangible, creative work and eight years as a runner led him to open his 1800-square foot shop. He’s had his growing pains, rethought strategy, even moved from his original location, but one major constant is his love of the run and he’s created a place worth making a mad dash to find.
How did you get into the business of running shoes?
There isn’t a running store north of White Plains until you hit Albany. I wanted to pursue it as a business and originally thought to run Ian Golden’s third store in Poughkeepsie—he has a successful running store in Ithaca, Finger Lakes Running and Triathlon, and a second store in Binghamton, Confluence Running. He had second thoughts—deciding he’d be located too far away—and instead was open to trying a partnership. With Ian as my business partner, I was able to leverage all of his experience through the start-up process. He’s the store buyer and managing the inventory is key to making the store successful. You need 30-40 shoe models, all in different colors and sizes, without having too many collecting dust. The trickiest part of the business is managing inventory and marketing.
How did you get your business off the ground?
We moved from the idea of Poughkeepsie, Peekskill and Beacon to Croton, still northern and still not next door to White Plains, but wealthier and a more population dense area. We were close to signing a lease on an older space, but the roof leaked and it was attached to an auto repair garage. We went instead for a brand new building, with large windows, and a blank slate interior. Community Capital gave me a $50,000 loan toward $140,000 in start-up costs, and we used it to purchase equity in the form of inventory and for some of the build out.
How did your business evolve?
Brad trained at Ian’s stores for a month before he moved into the apartment upstairs to run Run On. We wanted to appeal to college-educated, professional women, so we added women’s running bras and apparel, installed a faux wood vinyl floor from Home Depot to look warmer, and added children’s running shoes. We’re still finalizing some of our vendors; Patagonia apparel will be here next month.
What did you wish you knew?
I wish I knew how long everything would have taken. I originally wanted to be open in April and we didn’t open our doors until July, despite starting to look for a location in December. I really should have started looking for a location in September or October.
To have interactive, vibrant Facebook and Twitter social media campaigns. The next phase is in-store events, like yoga for runners here, injury recovery classes and “Spike Night,” where we bring in an entire cross country track team and give them a bigger discount. It’s a fun team-building event. We’re also scheduling group runs and plan to participate in and sponsor local races to get the word out. We’re going to advertise in “Moms Offer More,” a grassroots flier.
When will you feel you’ve arrived?
When we start turning a consistent profit.
Run On Hudson Valley, 383 South Riverside Ave, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520, 914.271.2134, http://runonhudsonvalley.com/