Wednesday, April 6, 2016
It was the fall of 2003 when I first set foot in Charm City Run. Through the “Smalltimore” network, I heard that Josh and Kara Levinson were looking for some help with their running store. I was looking for some work to supplement my coaching salary and fill the ten months that lay ahead of me before heading off to graduate school and liked to run, so this seemed like a good fit. And now, nearly thirteen years, three cities, two school-aged kids and one husband later, the time was right for me make another career change. After several conversations with Josh and one with my husband, I decided to step back through that very same door to start another chapter at this place that still feels home.
The early years of Charm City Run were fun-filled mayhem. We sold brands like Life is Good (made from 100% cotton) and NIKE was a four-letter word. All of our inventory was counted by hand, recorded on a legal pad and then entered in an excel spreadsheet. The nutrition “wall” consisted of GU, PowerGel, Clif Bars and the cases of Gatorade we frequently purchased at BJs or Sam’s Club. We used a video camera hooked up to a mounted television to perform gait analysis. Katie Heyl, then Katie Czech, was a customer who had never run a mile before coming in the store, and Brian Nasuta and Tom Mansfield were fulltime college students who began working part-time gigs shortly after my departure. We even had to exit the store to use the shared bathroom in the hallway. Our Events staff was called Charm City Run Timing and comprised of Kelly Dees, Dave Cooley, Josh and whomever was working in the store that day. And our training programs were non-existent. Even the Levinson family was different. Ben was a toddler who liked to help measure feet and build things with shoe boxes, Lucy spent her days napping in her infant car seat in Josh’s office and Sam’s arrival was still in the planning stages.
Charm City Run has certainly evolved since 2003. The Timonium store now occupies the entire first floor of 2045 York Road. There are five more locations around the Baltimore Metropolitan area and VITA recently opened its doors in Belvedere Square. The Swoosh is a mainstay in shoes, apparel and accessories. All of our inventory is managed through a software program. The nutrition wall is a runners dream filled with nearly any type product from pre-run to post-race recovery and everything in between. Gait analysis is done on an iPad with Coach’s Eye software and we can email videos directly to our customers. Katie Heyl has managed a store, run hundreds of races, trained hundreds of runners and has three kids of her own. Brian and Tom now run the show with Josh and we have employee and customer bathrooms in all our stores. Talk about an upgrade. Charm City Run Timing has grown into Charm City Run Events, occupies its own warehouse space, manages more that eighty events a year and owns and operates three of the largest races in the Baltimore each year. As for the Levinson kids, Ben is running competitively for Gilman’s track and cross country team and Lucy and Sam are both called upon to help out behind the register for some of our busier events.
And while so much has changed at Charm City Run since 2003, the core of this incredible business has remained the same. The customer always comes first and is always right. No matter the location, Charm City Run is an active presence in the community. From offering free yoga sessions, to providing injury prevention clinics with top doctors and physical therapists to holding Running 101 seminars for those customers who are thinking about starting to run or walk, Charm City Run does whatever it can to provide people with the tools and information to become better, safer and more knowledgeable as runners. And the most important quality that has remained in tact over the years is that every person who has any contact with Charm City Run immediately becomes a member of the ever-growing Charm City Run family. It was that feeling of family that brought me through the doors thirteen years ago and it’s the same feeling that I have every time I walk through them thirteen years later. I hope that never changes.
About the Author: Caroline Pinkin
Caroline Pinkin has returned to work at Charm City Run after a lengthy hiatus. She is married and the proud mom of two hysterical and highly mobile kids. Caroline enjoys spending her free time running, taking barre classes, cheering for the Ravens and Orioles and trying to overcome an unhealthy obsession with reality TV.