The shop has a reputation for providing unrivaled customer service, developing employees and community involvement.
Ed and Ellen Griffin know a thing or two about the business of running. As the owners and operators of Fleet Feet Sports Syracuse for more than a decade, they know just as much or more about their customers.
The Griffin’s leadership and the shop’s reputation for providing unrivaled customer service, taking pride in developing employees and being deeply involved in the local community contributed to it being named the 2012 Running Store of the Year on Dec. 5 at a running industry banquet in Austin, Texas. The entire staff celebrated the award together two nights later in Syracuse.
“It was like the Stanley Cup, except they couldn’t drink out of it,” Ed Griffin says. “So they had their picture taken with just about everybody together.”
Ed Griffin is a former cable TV executive and his wife, Ellen, is a former financial executive. Together they opened the franchised running store 12 years ago and have since developed a reputation as one of the most sophisticated operators in the country.
“We have to be the most inclusive store in town. Our job is to make sure everyone is welcome,” Ed Griffin says. “We get fast runners who have been running their whole life and new runners who have never run at all, and every kind of runner in between. And we have to be able to relate to each customer, find out what their story is and find out what they’re trying to accomplish and be able to make recommendations based on that.”
Every year, Competitor magazine and Running Insight identify the 50 Best Running Stores in America. It starts with consumers nominating their favorite stores through www.competitor.com. Then those stores are put through a rigorous evaluation process, which includes mystery shopping to assess customer service, credit ratings from vendors and assessments about local programs and community commitment.
The 50 Best Running Stores in America for 2012 were honored on Dec. 5 at The Running Event trade show in Austin. Fleet Feet Syracuse, which has grown to about 30 part-time and full-time employees, has been named one of the 50 Best Running Stores in America every year since the inception of the awards in 2006.
“It’s the people that make this business,” Ed Griffin says. “If your employees are happy, your customers are happy. And if your customers are happy, your business is going to grow.”
Fleet Feet Syracuse
5800 Bridge Street
East Syracuse, NY 13057
Total space: 10,000 square feet (The Griffins are evaluating several options to expand the business in the Syracuse market, including another location and an expansion to the existing building.)
Unique features: The store has a 1,500-square foot community room where it stages race packet pick-ups, indoor cycling for up to 30 people and regular in-store clinics and presentations. Other unique features include a track inlaid into the floor for testing shoes and a prominent space to honor the local high school runner of the year.
Training & Racing: The store offers a variety of training programs on a year-round basis, but it’s their 10-week begin-to-run programs that have been most remarkable, typically attracting between 250 and 350 runners at the spring, summer and fall sessions. In addition to a bevy of training groups from 5K to the marathon, the shop has also had big success for its beginner triathlon program and its winter maintenance program, which includes indoor cycling, indoor swimming and outdoor running. In the fall, the shop organizes weekly “Dusk Runs” along the Erie Canal.
Notable: Fleet Feet Syracuse is a sponsor of “Syrathon,” a series of eight races between March and October in and around Syracuse. Runners are encouraged to become a “Syrathoner” or “ULTRASyrathoner” by accumulating 26.2 or 42.5 miles, respectively, throughout the series. The store also helped organize RUNapalooza, a 5K race with several bands at Onondaga Community College.
Quotable: “As a running store, you have to cast the widest net possible, from elite athletes to first-time runners who might work on their feet all day in manufacturing. Your staff has to be able to relate to each customer and find out what their story is and what they’re trying to accomplish and make recommendations based on that.” — Ed Griffin