This October is bringing with it a momentous occasion for New Balance owners Hal and Angela Kearney: their store is celebrating 10 years in business.
"Thirteen years ago I was a buyer for an athletic shoe retail organization in Kennesaw, Ga., when I got into a discussion with my New Balance sales representative about New Balance opening exclusive New Balance stores across the country," Hal Kearney said. "At that point I knew Chattanooga would be a great city for such a concept."
The hard part was getting the dream off the ground, he said, adding that he didn't spend much time planning or discussing it with anyone.
"I did, however, continue to ask my sales rep numerous questions about the concept and how and why they were doing so well and always inquiring if Chattanooga was spoken for yet," Kearney said. "This was such a dream that I never really discussed it with Angela, figuring I would stay on the career path I was on."
New Balance of Chattanooga is located at 1820 Gunbarrel Road Suite 300 in the Gunbarrel Point Shopping Center near Target and is privately owned by Kearney and his wife Angela who are both board certified pedorthists. Store hours are Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30-5 p.m.
In April 2001, he received a phone call at home from that same New Balance sales rep with an offer that changed everything. The rep was opening a New Balance store in the Buckhead District of Atlanta, Ga., and for 25 percent ownership, Kearney could be a buyer, manager and part owner of the store. In return he would solidify the Chattanooga market when they were ready to open it.
"Through holidays of 2001 and all of 2002, it was all hands on deck for the Kearney family," Kearney recalled. "Angela started our systems and human resources, 4-year-old Colin swept and stacked boxes while 1-year-old Sarah would stand in the window waving at people walking past. Needless to say we didn't sleep too much that first 18 months, but sales were good and growth was inevitable."
The Chattanooga store opened in October 2003. Within two years the group had relocated due to growth.
"Our church family stepped up and helped us move 4,000-plus pairs of shoes, 1,000 pairs of socks, accessories, apparel, shelving and all the displays in one night," Kearney said. "I refused to be closed even one day. Not the most popular idea with our staff, but it worked."
Ten years later, New Balance Chattanooga is still growing and doing well. Kearney said he often thinks of opening a new branch across the river. "The situation has to be perfect," he said. "We have two very active kids that play school sports as well as on summer teams. We aren't willing to give that up just yet."
Why did he first gravitate toward opening a New Balance store in general? Kearney said that's easy to answer.
"You don't see any privately owned stores by the other big shoe manufacturers," he noted. "The leadership of New Balance in the late '90s knew they weren't retailers, so why not partner with professional retailers? That way they get the close attention of the owner and that owner buys all products from the corporate division. We get a business we love that provides, and New Balance gets a very healthy account with a showcase for all of its products that otherwise never get shown."
To celebrate its achievement, New Balance Chattanooga invites the community to a weekend- long party with special events beginning Friday, Oct. 11.
Anniversary activities include:
• "Test drive" event featuring the opportunity to run and walk in some of the latest products free of charge in the store's parking lot. A tech rep will be available to answer any questions about the New Balance lines of footwear.
• WGOW SPORT TALK from 4-7 p.m.
• Giveaway of five pairs of customized shoes (valued at $180 per pair) for people who enter the drawing by either written or text entry. (See store for details.)
• Good Form Walking clinic in the store's parking lot at 9 a.m.
• Daylight Donuts available while supplies last
• Sign-ups for the In Motion walking club
• Newbie the Walking Shoe giving away free popcorn and available for pictures
• Major kids' clearance sale with prices starting at $15
• 15 percent off "thank you" discount on inline shoes (some exclusions apply)
• 40 percent apparel (some exclusions apply)