One of the most beautiful things about the running industry is that it lets so many runners turn their passion into a career. It is no surprise, then, that that’s how the story went for Robert Smith, owner of Robert’s Running and Walking Shop in Huntington, West Virginia.
Smith, a runner since the age of 12, found himself working in insurance, living the suit-and-tie life, and knowing that was not his end-goal. When he decided to live his passion and open a running store, many people told him it wouldn’t work in Huntington – but here they are, 12 years later, still going strong.
“One of the coolest things about owning a small running shop is that everything in your store is tried and tested,” Smith said. “We have to be so selective about what we carry because our space is limited. We don't carry anything we don't personally love!”
Robert’s Running and Walking Shop has a commitment to inclusivity, personal attention, and products that are tried-and-true. These priorities helped them not only grow their business in Huntington, but also to expand to serve the running community of Charleston as well. This second store was opened in 2010, and in 2013 Robert’s was named one of the 50 Best Running Stores in America by Competitor Magazine.
“It's amazing,” Robert said on what it means when customers choose to shop local at his store. “Looking back on those early years, we were happy when two or three customers came through the door in a day. We feel so lucky to serve thousands of customers a year.”
The store is focused on getting to know a customer’s story and personality, making them feel comfortable and confident.
“Small businesses have to stand out as much as they can against the changing landscape of retail,” he said. “In West Virginia, it's all about the people. Sometimes people get intimidated because we are a 'running' shop. But we are as happy to fit a nurse for comfortable shoes as someone running their 20th marathon.”