How does that old saying go? ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ That perfectly sums up how Greg Baum came into the running industry.
As a high school cross country coach in 1975, Baum visited a local sporting goods store and suggested they carry a few running shoe brands for his team to purchase. The store showed no interest, so Baum took the next logical step.
He contacted one of the running shoe companies, opened an account with his fictitious store name, and placed an opening order of 100 pairs. With that, he outfitted his team. When neighboring teams got wind of what Baum had done, he soon began outfitting them as well.
“I also took shoes to local road races and sold out of the back of my car after the race,” he said. “Customers would also come to my house and try shoes on as we talked running.”
It wasn’t until 1982 that Baum and his wife Celine opened a legitimate retail store - Flying Feet Sport Shoes. The space was small and easily crowded.
“During the first weekend or two of spring track customers stood in a line that extended into the parking lot,” he said. “It was sort of a party atmosphere to customers, as they socialized with teammates and competitors while they waited. But it was stressful to those of us working, as we raced to take care of everyone as best we could.”
The current store space occupies a building about 100-yards away from the original shop. Baum can still remember what it was like in the early days.
“We were a small, tight knit group in the beginning,” he said. “Everybody knew everybody, and we had a good time with it. We created our own events and races. Events were low key, no frills, inexpensive, and fun. Everyone pitched in and helped to make events happen, and we all strove to be competitive.”
Today the York, PA running community is much larger, with little cohesion as a group. Baum, who is a founding member of the York Road Runners Club and York County Chapter of PIAA Track & Field Officials, still stays involved with most of the local road races, all of the high school cross country and track events, Girls on the Run, Healthy Kids Running, Moms on the Run, and many more.
With 36 years of business in the community, Flying Feet is now serving many second and third generation customers. And it’s no surprise, with customer service being their core value.
“Our first goal is to make it a good experience for the customer, no matter if they buy or they leave empty handed,” he said. “When someone chooses to shop with us, it means that for some reason they have decided to entrust us with their feet and their sport. Maybe someone told them good things about us. Maybe they heard and believed the advertising. Maybe they just decided to take a chance on us. In any case, it makes me feel like I want to do good things for them. I take pride in what I do.”