The second post in the Through Our Lens series focuses on a running store making a splash in running-crazed Austin, Texas. The Loop Running Supply Company is just over three months old, but that is not stopping them from gaining traction as an experience and aesthetic focused running store. Founded by Pam and Ryan Hess at the end of 2017, they focus on building an inclusive community of runners to meet, run, enjoy a glass a whiskey, and be themselves.
"We wanted a store that anyone [runner or not] could walk into and feel inspired." - Pam
Austin itself has been a hot spot for running since the late 80s, and that is still the case with ATX being listed as one of the finalist cities for the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials. The retail market in Austin was once dominated by RunTex, who once boasted regular customers including Gov. Rick Perry, President George W. Bush and wife Laura, Michael Dell, and Jerry Jeff Walker. Pam and Ryan worked for RunTex and experienced the growth of having 14-plus stores in the Austin area alone.
But in 2013 RunTex, going bankrupt and facing competition from Luke's Locker, Rogue Running, and others, had to shut down nearly all of their stores. The years following saw other stores fail in downtown Austin - Hill Country Run Co. and Luke's Locker locations all had to shut down due to their inability to pay the bills. Rogue Running moved out of downtown to a West Austin site. This was, they felt, the perfect opportunity to capture a market and running culture right where they lived: on the Lady Bird Lake trail in the heart of Downtown Austin.
"We have this location on the trail where people can run, hang out, and have some whiskey or beer... We want this culture of cool - a place where people can get their run in and come together."
The Loop is looking to capitalize on a trend of using thoughtfully crafted, shoppable retail locations. Their space is not pushing wall-to-wall product but wanting you to feel inspired, connected, and enthusiastic about being there... and buying some shoes while you are at it.
"As retailers look ahead, one conclusion they’ve drawn is that if stores are going to be about more than just transactions, they need to offer something you can’t get online: and an obvious answer is in-real-life experience." - Quartz, Visions of the Store of the Future
"That [Satisfy] was totally an Instagram crush that we found. We wanted to bring in really cool, beautiful apparel and stuff that we were in love with." - Pam
Cultivating a running culture by working with running groups in Austin is a key to their early success. A few of these groups include Gilbert's Gazelles, trained by the founder, Gilbert Tuhabonye, and Trail Roots, created to support the growing Austin trail-running community. Bringing as many people together, regardless of their background in running, is something they are extremely passionate about.
For Pam and Ryan, going into business together and being full owners of their own store was exactly what they wanted. Determining their own success, their own style, their own culture pushes them to try new things, in-store and out. Not only do they want to run a successful business, they are working to become a group known for having the loudest cheering stations at the Austin Marathon, for being an inclusive and fun place to experience running and community, and for furthering the running culture in the heart of Texas. Even in The Loop's relative infancy, they are gaining attention of big retailers who want to support and cultivate these specialty stores who have a very connected and committed following.
Stronger, Faster, Further, Together is not just a hashtag-able motto, it truly is how Pam and Ryan think about their business and their relationship with Austin. They are building something unique and exciting, and we at A Runner's Eye are blessed to work with them to show you The Loop, Through Our Lens.