There are so many social media platforms that it is hard for a 45-year old to keep up, especially one who does not make it a priority. Our son Ben just calls all of it the “interwebs”. I love that word. When Charm City Run was named the 2016 Running Store of the Year on Thursday night, the news was all over the interwebs. I was very grateful. Imagine that some really nice people that I know and do not know took time out of their busy day to congratulate us. That is why there is something more to this honor. This is not just Charm City Run’s award, it is our award. The runners of this great state, the families who like to shop local, our vendors, and certainly the people who we brought into the sport, into this great community, the award is theirs too. You created the Store of the Year.
While the word blessing is used far too often, I have a difficult time thinking of another word to describe being able to do what you want to do with the people who you love to do it with. When you do what you want to do, it should certainly be fun, but it should also be meaningful. We sell stuff and we need to sell stuff to survive but we also sell stuff that helps people in their mission to get better. The grander goal is to make a difference in someone’s life or to inspire and move the human spirit one sole at a time as our mission states. This is a worthwhile endeavor and very fulfilling. It is also something we believe to our core. The cynical may say that Charm City Run is a shoe store and I cannot argue that we sell shoes, but if you have been in and we have not touched you in another way we have failed.
We have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life by giving them a good experience in the store. This starts with being a good listener, addressing all their running and walking needs but more importantly by demonstrating an interest in them as a person no matter who that person is. We are just as interested in someone trying to walk as someone trying to PR in a long distance race. Equal respect for everyone should be and hopefully is a given.
Training can make the largest impact and these stories are the ones that often move me the most. When someone shares with me that they were in a bad place and a Charm City Run training group changed their life, that has a large impact on me and drives us all to make Charm City Run better. That experience beckons a larger responsibility. We have to be good and get better because people are counting on us.
In my remarks at The Running Event, I talked about all the friends I have made over the last 15 years and how it is a privilege to be in the inspiration business with them. We are not in the shoe and apparel business, we are in the inspiration business and maybe that is why despite all odds we can survive in a world where you can click a button and have a product at your house the next day. Ecommerce is a formidable opponent for sure but no ecommerce provider can compete with us on inspiration or local impact. Amazon, Zappos and Road Runner will never give 1% of their sales to the local community. Some people know that we do that and some people do not, but maybe, just maybe at the end of the day if you treat people right and do the right thing, it all works out.
When Kara and I started, I told her on a daily basis that we were going down. We never went down but there were some scary months and maybe even years. Even in the early days we spent a lot of time talking about doing the right thing. While I had a lot to thank Kara for on Thursday night, the most difficult part of my remarks was talking about our people. I actually could not do it. I fused together some half sentences that were a grammatical disaster, said thank you and walked off the stage. Somehow, we have managed to attract and retain amazing human beings. They are good at what they do but they are better people. They are certainly better people than I was when I was looking for my first job. There are people here who I have known since high school and others who I talked into joining after working here part-time in college. That first generation started here over twelve years ago when they passed over corporate jobs and stable careers to work in a shoe store.
They saw what we saw before we could see it. Even as youngsters they knew that a job filled with inspiration and doing good that challenges you every day is a good life. That group along with you set the foundation for Charm City Run. Being the number one running store does not change who we are. After all we are the same store today that we were last week, but it is a time of reflection and thanks. I thank our peeps for all their hard work, dedication, and integrity and I thank you for making us the Number 1 running specialty store in America. The last 15 years have been great. Our challenge and responsibility is to make the next 15 better.
All the best,