Today, the Grove is a thriving district that hosts a diverse range of businesses offering up street murals, craft beers, global food choices, dance floors, and spots to shop and grab a coffee. For the month of November, we decided to sit down and chat with two local business owners of a specialty running store in The Grove.
Bob Dyer and Jennifer Henderson moved from the suburbs to the city of St. Louis in 2015. Bob built his career in the shoe business, with his last position as the CEO of a shoe company based in Singapore. He always had a passion for running and was a competitive distance runner. Bob decided that he wanted to combine his personal passion with his work experience. Both Bob and Jennifer saw a need for a specialty store for runners in the city, and they were inspired to open a place like the mom and pop running shop they had both worked at in Ann Arbor, Michigan during college.
Running Niche opened its doors in the neighborhood on May 1st, 2018. The owners researched The Grove and learned about the development plan for the area and those surrounding it. They wanted to be an integral part of The Grove neighborhood, and a positive part of the revitalization happening here. They also knew that there would be an influx of young, social and active consumers here, as well as tourists and business travelers looking for local running resources. The envisioned there store as a place where people from all different walks of life could come together around a mutual love of running.
The pair see their store’s mission as providing good shoes, bras and accessories to runners and walkers of all abilities; as well as providing training encouragement and support. They strive to help runners move forward in their personal health and fitness goals, and also see Running Niche as a hub for the city’s running community. It is a place where people can come in and talk about running, or stop in mid run for water or a bathroom break, and there is not an expectation on them to buy something. Bob and Jennifer love to get to know their customers and talk all things running with them.
The store sells running shoes, water bottles, nutrition, socks and bras. They have invested in a comprehensive sports bra selection and Jennifer provides fitting services— the store offers a wide range of sizes that many running stores don’t carry. Bob and Jennifer also offer personalized training services, where they create a plan and provide coaching to individuals at no charge. They are committed to building their location in The Grove through establishing firm community ties. To the owners, one-on-one relationships are invaluable, and they want to build trust and get to know their customers in a way that is made to last.
Jennifer started running races when she was 50, and they see themselves as representing different parts of the diverse spectrum of runners. The owners strive to meet their customers where they are in there fitness journey, whether that is running or walking. Bob’s previous experience in footwear, the couple’s running experience, and their attention to detail when it comes to their products and customer base are what makes this store a unique shopping experience in The Grove. Here, runners can not only purchase running shoes and athletic wear, they can have a unique shopping experience and get to know two people who are passionate about running and supporting runners in their community.
Bob and Jennifer have worked to steadily build a running community in the area with their Wednesday night running groups. Their first week had five people in attendance, but this past May saw 65 runners. They now regularly see between 35-60 people attending this weekly group. They also started a program for beginning runners, which trains participants over 10 weeks to run for 30 minutes. The owners coach about 30 runners in the area free of charge, and sponsor six local runners by providing shoes, coaching and racing fees to help them achieve their running goals.
During the summer, Jennifer leads a running activity twice a week at Midtown Community Services’s day camp for kids age 5-12. Bob is on the advisory board of Let Me Run, a nonprofit running program for boys focused on fostering healthy emotional development. They also provide shoes at-cost to Go St. Louis, a non-profit that trains high school kids to run a half marathon. Stop by Running Niche to meet the owners and learn more about their community involvement. Small Business Saturday is Saturday, November 30th and this would be a great store to visit and support that day!
For more information, visit Running Niche’s website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @runningniche