Sad farewell to a quality retailer

My shoes are worn at half-mast today — which is to say I am wearing them half tied! Not because it is the new trendy thing to do but rather to commemorate the loss of a grassroots running store in Red Deer: The Runner’s Den.

My shoes are worn at half-mast today — which is to say I am wearing them half tied! Not because it is the new trendy thing to do but rather to commemorate the loss of a grassroots running store in Red Deer: The Runner’s Den.

For 16 years the store has been a staple to the Red Deer running community, providing superior customer service and expert advice to runners and triathletes. The owner of the store, Dwayne Loyer, has lent his years of running experience to the growth of the running community in Red Deer through his marathon training classes, weekly runs out of the Runner’s Den on Wednesdays and his personal training with the Red Deer Runners running club. His marathon training is timed to finish with a crescendo at the Woody’s Marathon, of which he has been a major sponsor since he took over the store in 2003.

As a fitness facility owner in Red Deer myself, I know that sending clients to the Den would always result in the proper pair of shoes for them. I heard from several of my clients that they had never tried on “so many” shoes or have to use a treadmill while doing so. Not one has been unhappy with their shoes, even after logging several miles in training. With The Runner’s Den, it’s always been about educating the runner and getting the proper fitting shoes.

For me, trips to The Runner’s Den have always been met with casual conversation about training and upcoming races. The conversation would undoubtedly lead to the latest accomplishments of the young, up-and-coming runners of Red Deer, of whom he employed several, and the seasoned runners who routinely finish 100-plus-km races. I usually leave with something new whether it’s a pair of shorts or knowledge that yet another runner is faster than me.

As our society has grown to embrace online shopping, which I remorsefully admit to using, and shifting from customer-service-based business to high-profit/low-wages box stores, we neglect the foundations within the community.

The shops that provide great service by taking the time to ensure a proper fit, a lesson about the shoes and why they are right for you may mean a little larger price tag in the long run (no pun intended) but the grassroots businesses like The Runner’s Den care about your running experience and growth, not their profit margin. Certainly they are in business to make money but not at the expense of your health or naivety.

I admire The Den for explaining the truth about current fads and the possible implications of, say, a minimalist shoe versus a stability shoe that would be better fitted to a beginner. It hurts a business to turn away a sale of an expensive fad item to explain what a person needs for their current training goals. The Runner’s Den routinely does just that to help the individual person grow as a runner and ensure no injuries slow them down.

There is nothing worse than developing an injury such as plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis due to improper shoes. Visiting stores employing inexperienced and unknowledgeable staff whose sole directive is to make large commission by showing you the latest and greatest shoe (usually the pair with the highest marked up) hurts not only you the consumer but also the retailers, like The Runner’s Den, that put time and effort into knowing which shoes will help make you a better athlete.

With the passing of The Runner’s Den there will now be five shops in Red Deer that sell running shoes and gear, so sure you can still buy shoes here. I do not mean this to slight what those stores bring as I know a couple of them that are not strictly running focused have some very knowledgeable staff. That said, the five stores together do not have the knowledge or experience of Dwayne or his staff; and they will not have the ties to the community that The Runner’s Den, and Dwayne himself, has.

The big chains have surface interest in the community and put on races for self-promotion where, humbly, Dwayne accepted lifetime entry into the Woody’s Marathon and a lifetime membership to the Red Deer Runners Club for his support of those two organizations and being a staple of our running community.

It’s a sad passing. Even with their laces pulled tight, it’s going to be really tough to fill the big shoes left by the Runner’s Den.

Jay Klause

Red Deer

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