Runner’s retail: Downtown Missoula running shop among Top 4 nationwide

Runner’s Edge staff, from left to right, Tim Anders, Elizabeth Brown, Erin Forde, Alex Tait, Meg Brooker, Sarah Knutson and Vicky Mix and Anders Brooker. (Mari Hall/Missoula Current)

Runner’s Edge was recently named one of the top four running stores in the United States, based on customer service, product selection and overall customer satisfaction.

The store’s top four nomination also puts it in the running for the title of top running apparel store in the nation, according to the Best Running Stores in America 2019 organization.

Most of the nominated stores are in larger cities and have multiple storefronts. Missoula is the smallest city represented in the rankings.

“It feels good. I think the best part about it is it shows the hard work that our staff does. I mean, we wouldn’t be here today without the commitment of our team,” owner Anders Brooker said.

For its rankings, Best Running Stores looks at customer reviews and nominations, how the business works with vendors and the overall experience of secret shoppers. The organization also considers business community involvement and how the business contributes to the community.

Brooker said that Runner’s Edge hosts about 10 events and supports an average of 50 events every year. The upcoming 5K women’s run this Sunday, called Run Like a Mother, is an example of how the store engages with the running community.

“We concentrate on community involvement. We think about our involvement or our relationship with Missoula as a whole, and that’s important to us,” Brooker said. “So we spend a lot of time and resources and energy to be a part of the community.”

Brooker opened shop in 2001 with a passion for running and little background in operating a business. With his parents’ support, who were also small business owners, he was able to sustain the business as a young, 20-year-old entrepreneur.

“This industry of running specialty stores was just starting to kind of pop up around the country and we thought that it was time for Missoula and that Missoula would support something like that,” Brooker said. “My mom and dad had small businesses and so I grew up in that atmosphere, and so I thought that Missoula needed a running store and I guess the rest is history.”

Everything that the store offers can be found online; however, many people visit the store for the experience and staff expertise.

“We’re always trying to evolve our space,” Brooker said. “With the growth of online business and online retail, for people to make the choice to come all the way down to downtown Missoula and buy their shoes and clothes from us, we think it has to be about an experience, not just a product. So how can we keep making that experience better?”

Even if Runner’s Edge doesn’t make the top of the list, Brooker appreciates the public’s support and looks forward to serving for more years to come.

“It feels good to have a community that supports us and we’re going to be the smallest market in the top four, and to have a small community like this have a loud enough voice on how they feel about our business, that feels good.”

The “best running store” award ceremony will take place in Tucson, Arizona later this month.

Reporter Mari Hall can be reached via email at mari.hall@missoulacurrent.com.