By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
As the saying goes, the ink is barely dry on the lease.
Lori and Tim McConnell just signed a deal for second-floor space in Charlestown Center, which has been home to just two businesses – Budget Cuts and Anytime Fitness – for the year-plus since it opened.
Their new business doesn’t have a name yet (in fact, they’re inviting you to offer suggestions, in case the one they’re checking on doesn’t pan out) – but they are very clear on what it will be: West Seattle’s one and only “specialty running” store.
“The closest sporting-good store is Big 5, and you can only get two flavors of GU there!” Tim points out.
If you know what he’s talking about, you’re going to love their store.
GU, we are informed after a sheepish inquiry, is an energy product on which many runners rely.
Lori is the runner in the family. In fact, we featured her on WSB over the holidays, when reporter Keri DeTore bumped into her and her friends during their “1st Annual Holidazzle Run” (that’s Lori on the right):
She’s run 11 marathons, including the vaunted Boston Marathon – twice. “You have to qualify for that!” Tim interjects proudly, as the three of us talk at an Admiral coffee shop.
“I guess I’ve been running since 1998 – did my first half-marathon in ’01, my first marathon in ’02,” she continues. “Just loved it from there.” She and a “big group of friends” meet every Saturday to “go for a long run” – followed by a stop at Bakery Nouveau. They’ve traveled together too, including the East Coast events.
Tim says he used to run, but got hurt and never got back into it. He’s the business cred in the partnership, though, with 20 years in retail sales and a recently awarded degree in business manager; Lori works as a child/teen/family counselor, with an office “right next to The Swinery!”, just blocks from where they will open their store – an idea they’ve had for years.
“Between Lynnwood and Burien, there are only seven specialty-running stores in the entire area,” Tim explains.
So their store will not only carry “the full line of GU” – 12 flavors, plus the gluten-free version – but it will offer shoes, apparel and accessories.
“Having someone fit you in the right shoe for your gait (is important),” Lori explains. Otherwise, “if you have problems, if your foot rolls in and out, you can get an injury.”
They’ll carry the different types of shoes – “depending on how your foot hits the ground, what kind of shoe your foot is supposed to be in,” Tim elaborates. They’ll have a treadmill in the store so that they can see exactly how you run, while working to find the right fit. The brands they plan to carry include ASICS, Saucony, Mizuno, Brooks, and of course Nike (“just spike shoes”).
A specialty-running store, the McConnells say, is not just something you open on a whim – vendors are apparently very discerning about who they will deal with. A friend of theirs owns a store in Lynnwood and has vouched for them, which has given them a foot in the door, so to speak.
So they’re lining up merchandise, finalizing paperwork, all the things you have to go through when opening a business – “no one’s written a book about this, how to do it in Washington,” Tim observes. (We suggested he might consider it.) And of course, there’s the aspect of breaking the news about the new enterprise – they posted it on Facebook for “people who weren’t immediate friends and family,” and they sent us a note.
As part of their deal, they are taking on the “buildout” of their space – 1,600 square feet, with high ceilings (10 to 12 feet) and “a lot of windows facing south.” So they’ll be hard at work on that – Tim notes that he’s worked for Home Depot for quite some time, so he has a bit of expertise in how to do such things.
They’ve been married almost a decade, have been foster parents, and – in keeping with the running theme – have a greyhound “rescued from a dog park.” (A shelter cat, too.) Add all that to a large network of friends and family – plus, did we mention, Tim’s building a bathroom at their home? – and they are plenty busy; but since the store’s a longtime dream, it’s clear it will be a joy. They plan to keep their current careers for now, so they expect to be hiring staff, but they have to be runners – one fulltimer, two or three part-timers.
In the short run, they’ll be spending time tomorrow at a shoe-fitting clinic. And they’re plotting community involvement for the store, too – organize running groups, maybe plot spots in the parking area behind their new store (Charlestown Center has parking in the rear, which is where the door to the second floor is) that will show the distance to and from certain landmarks so people can plot runs. They might have a readerboard in the store, cheering for people who are participating in certain runs, perhaps even sendoff parties, training resources, matches for running partners.
Meanwhile, they really want to hear from potential customers: What do you want to be sure they offer? (“Why shouldn’t we carry what the running community wants?” Tim reasons.) And, got any good names? (They’d like to include “West Seattle.”) Just leave a comment. They are hoping to open in early April. “Nine weeks!” they point out. Not that they’re counting or anything.
(Charlestown Center is kitty-corner from Charlestown Cafe; here’s a map.)