50 Best Running Retailers in America—The Big 4

A Snail’s Pace

4 locations in Southern California | runasnailspace.com

When Eddie Johnson first started working at A Snail’s Pace he was also waiting tables, bartending and attending the fire academy. But it didn’t take him long to realize that he had found a home. “I fell in love with it right away,” he insists. Before he knew it, he had partnered with the store’s founder Dave Reynolds, and the 1,400-square-foot outlet in Fountain Valley was doubling in size. “We started a grassroots marketing program and went to small running events every week,” he says. “Then we created a triathlon club and added swim, bike and run workouts.”

Johnson has run 30 marathons and completed four Ironman triathlon races, but he still remembers his first triathlon vividly. The former baseball and football player started running during his first year in college and did his first triathlon on a dare at UC Irvine. “It was a short run, bike and swim event,” he says. “When I got out of the pool at the end, I remember thinking that the sport was insane and all I wanted to do was puke.” He laughs. “Two weeks later I signed up for another one.”

There are now four A Snail’s Pace stores in Southern California (Fountain Valley, Laguna Hills, Brea and Pasadena), and Johnson feels he knows the reasons for their success. Number one: He got into running by trying to make it once around the block, then twice around the block—just like so many of his customers. “I can totally relate to anyone just getting started and so can our staff. It’s tear-jerking when people who have gone through our training programs come back to the store to show us their bib number after they finish their first-ever 5K, 10K or marathon. What could be better than that?”

Their Running Academy 100 Program, Snail Steps, teaches runners the basics. Over time their customers graduate to Running Academy 101, 201 and, eventually, 301. “Each one of our stores has a running club,” says Johnson. “It’s for everyone and each one has a weekly training run. Once a month we have a club race, and we set up the A Snail’s Pace canopy and have everyone wear a uniform. The support for each other is amazing.”

There are now 70 employees, and this year alone six are celebrating their 10-year anniversaries with A Snail’s Pace.

The day we chatted, Johnson had spent two hours that morning helping a 93-year-old woman find comfortable shoes. “She comes in once a year and was literally in tears because she was so happy,” says Johnson. “She kept thanking me over and over again for taking so much time with her, but the fact is that I appreciate her more than she knows. I love it. Those are the moments that I’ll never forget.”


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