New store opens to serve Chattanooga's vibrant running community

New store opens to serve Chattanooga's vibrant running community

March 9th, 2016 by David Cobb in Business Around the Region

The new Fleet Feet Sports franchise store is located on Manufacturers Road, seen on Tuesday, Mar. 8, 2016, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Gallery: Fleet Feet Sports open on North Shore

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With stores in Nashville, Knoxville, Atlanta, Huntsville, Ala., and across North Carolina, Fleet Feet Sports is an established brand in running communities across the southeast.

The national network of stores was missing one key market in the region, though.

That changed last week when Fleet Feet opened at Two North Shore, bringing a new retail option to Chattanooga's vibrant running community.

"Chattanooga really connects all those dots," the store's operating partner Steve Carter said. "There was a missing spot here, and that's why it's been on the radar for a long time. It was just a prime location to be."

Fleet Feet enters the running market in a retail plaza already frequented by outdoor recreation enthusiasts. The store is next door to a Trek Bicycle shop and across the parking lot from Rock/Creek.

The 2,400-square-foot facility is also a quarter of a mile from Fast Break Athletics, a long-established local running store on Cherokee Boulevard with a loyal customer base.

"It's climbing and it has been climbing," Fast Break Athletics owner Alan Outlaw said of the local running market. "Obviously, when a larger chain comes into town, there's a reason for it. We've been around since 1977 and we've seen it grow, so it's not surprising to see someone else come into town.

"They've got a pretty big megaphone, so hopefully what that does is increase awareness and shed more light on what we've been doing for a long time."

The Chattanooga location is Fleet Feet's 159th store nationwide. But Carter, who was previously general manager of Fleet Feet's Huntsville store, is part of a company program that has him on a path to own the store one day.

For now, there are six part-time employees aiding the effort at the store, which sells apparel, accessories and, of course, running shoes.

"Things can grow fast," said Carter, who relocated to the Scenic City two months ago with his wife and son. "In Huntsville we grew fast. I'm just glad to be here."

The store is hosting two weekly runs — a 6 a.m. run on Tuesdays and a 4 p.m. run on Sunday afternoons — and Carter is planning to launch training programs for aspiring distance runners soon.

"The time I've been here, I've been out meeting people, trying to get involved in the community and I've met a lot of folks through running groups," said Carter, who volunteered with Sunday's inaugural Erlanger Chattanooga Marathon.

Recognition of the Fleet Feet name has helped, too, Carter added.

"There have been people in the store this week that have known the name from the presence of the brand around the country," he said.

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.