Retail Running

A True Calling at KC’s Running Well & Goodmiles Makes it Special

The Running Well opened a brand new location in late April.

Kathy Gates has followed her heart, her family, and her passions since her birth in Huntington Beach, CA. But it wasn’t until 2010 when she landed in the Heart of America, also known as Kansas City, MO, that she finally found her true calling.

Now, her ever expanding The Running Well chain of three run specialty stores is a finalist for the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award that will be revealed on June 14. 

Gates’ connection to running began during an advertising career that commenced at Grey Worldwide in New York, where her account base ranged from Intel to Febreze, and moved to VML in Kansas City, where her clients included Southwest Airlines and SAP. At VML, she began making items for runners in her spare time. (One such item was a diary-like ‘bib book’ where runners could store and display their race bibs.)

“I started running once I got a corporate job and was never fast,” she recalls. “But it was a great way to stay healthy no matter what town my work took me to. I wanted to sell these products online but didn’t have a clue about price point or how to market to runners.” 

After a quick search, she called on Bob Lafferty, proprietor of Sports Medicine Metro Walk and Run in North Kansas City, to answer her questions. Besides being patient with Gates and her many inquiries, Lafferty made her an offer. She could buy his store. 

Given the financial metrics of purchasing Lafferty’s store outright weren’t feasible, Gates opted to sign on as store manager in 2012 with an option to buy. A year later, she purchased the store. A year after that, Gates started an event production company that produced 5ks, 10ks and a half marathon. She sold the race company in 2018 before opening her third store in Mission, KS.

“During this process, I found what I was designed to do,” recalls The Running Well Store’s sole proprietor. “I love being active and sharing that passion with others, but I also love business. I love creating something whether it is a team, a culture, a process, or a new store buildout.”

In late April, Gates took the most recent steps in her lifelong journey by moving the original store location to another retail space on NW Barry Road complete with custom wallpaper, a 3D design above the apparel wall and a custom photo of Kansas City on one wall in the 2,500-sq.-ft. space. She says the store was in desperate need of more space and a visual refresh.

Last month, the new The Running Well store that caters to “all walks of life” in the City of Fountains, partnered with The MORE Foundation on a shoe drive. Through the grand opening event, the community donated enough shoes to plant 5,000 trees in Africa. 

“Once I started owning The Running Well Store, I knew in my soul that I was doing what I was intended to do,” offers Gates, who hints that more stores and an e-commerce concept are on her radar in the years ahead.

Goodmiles Makes it Special

Stan’s Fit For Your Feet, a Milwaukee independent footwear retail institution for more than 70 years, has always proven nimble on its feet and ready to pivot based on the needs and desires of footwear consumers in Southeastern Wisconsin. 

After years of adjusting merchandise, brand and price-point assortments to stay in step, the fourth-generation business of the Sajdak Family has leaned into some bold business moves over the last 10 months. First, in June 2022, with effects from a two-year pandemic finally waning, the business decided to expand beyond Wisconsin with its acquisition of Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe, another family-owned and operated business, in nearby Niles, IL. 

Six months later in January 2022, Stan’s took another step forward, rebranding the two New Balance Milwaukee stores they own with the new name Goodmiles Running Company and establishing a new foothold in the retail run specialty segment. This involved gutting and renovating the 2,500-sq.-ft. stores in Greenfield and Brookfield, WI, two Milwaukee bedroom communities; rebranding the doors as “Goodmiles Running Company;” and broadening SKU and brand assortments. Existing store staff has been expanded with the addition of several run experts.

“It was a great run with New Balance,” commented David Sajdak, director of merchandising for Goodmiles. “We still have a wonderful relationship with New Balance. But with this growth in the run category, we had the opportunity to expand our assortment.”

Megan Sajdak Holtan, director of marketing and a certified pedorthist like her brother David, said the opening of Goodmiles has “brought renewed energy” to both its staff and customer base.

Goodmiles Running Company is part of the Stan’s Fit For Your Feet collection of stores.

“Customers walk in the store and it’s like, ‘Wow!’ …and we’re seeing new individuals walk in our Goodmiles doors, more run specialty individuals, going, ‘Hey, I heard you have Hoka, or I heard you carry Topo’ and really coming out for those brands. It’s been exciting to speak to a little bit different customer while also staying true to our existing customers. Just having this freshness has been exciting for everyone.”

Besides maintaining a robust selection of New Balance styles, including always in demand 847s and 928s for the hardcore walking set, Goodmiles has increased its SKU base by another 100 to 125 from other vendors with Hoka being a dominant part of the expanded footwear assortment. Other footwear brands in the mix included Altra, Brooks, On, Oofos, Saucony, Birkenstock and Topo. On the apparel side besides its own namesake label and New Balance, the stores carry pieces from Brooks and Rabbit. There is also an insole range that includes Currex and Aetrex. The store also carries bags and hats. 

Beyond its expanded product assortment, Goodmiles is working to connect strongly with the local running community through its in-store services, such as the Volumental digital foot scanner to help measure customers’ feet and analyze their gait, and ties to local events that include partnering with the city’s annual Lakeshore Marathon, hosting customer fun runs, and organizing walking and running groups.

The Sajdak Family is no stranger to top-notch retail service. The National Shoe Retailers Association named Stan’s Fit For Your Feet and New Balance Milwaukee the National Footwear Retailer of the Year in 2013. And the operations have been recognized by Shepherd Express, a weekly alternative newspaper, for four years; by local consumers in an annual business poll; and by the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce. Plus, the retailer has been honored with Footwear Insight’s Gold Medal Award for Outstanding Customer Service multiple times. 

Goodmiles carries a broad range of running footwear brands.

After a typically long Wisconsin winter, which included a snowfall in late March, the weather has turned up along with the seasonal prospects for Goodmiles Running Co. Local high school cross-country athletes, an older walking crowd and younger female suburbanites are all among the banner’s regular customers on any given day. 

While Milwaukee area shoppers are always looking for a deal, to date Goodmiles has not faced much, if any, price resistance from its customers as it always promotes a value message. When Hoka discontinued the Clifton 8, for example, the store’s remaining inventory of the style sold through swiftly. But the Clifton 9 also had a strong sellthrough rate when it became available. 

The Sajdaks concur that family’s shoe operations have faced a sort of “inventory whiplash” over the last year or so. In addition to the two Goodmiles stores, the Stan’s Fit For Your Feet collection of stores includes three Stan’s locations, the Vionic Store Milwaukee, and Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe.

“I mean, it went from famine to you can get almost anything you want now,” opines David Sajdak. “We are stocked and ready to go, but obviously we have more inventory on our walls compared to a year ago.”

The retailer reports that it has not faced much price resistance with its run specialty offerings.