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Written By Rob Smith - April 28 2017
Our first customer was Gary, who had no idea we had just opened and was the first person to walk through the door. I was so stoked! Stoked that Gary found us, stoked that Gary wanted to support us, and stoked that we finally had some money coming in after leaving my job months earlier.
That was two years ago today. Two years ago we jumped two feet into the world of running specialty. The last time I had run a retail shop was back in Victoria around 2003-2005 at HtO; Canada’s oldest surf shop. At that time I was managing and doing some buying. It was everything I wanted it to be without 90% of the responsibility of actually owning the place.
“So, why the hell did you open a running shop?” That question has been asked exactly in those words at least a half dozen times. The answer is quite simple – I was tired of my work, feeling uninspired and frustrated. We just had our son and Beck suggested we start that business plan we’d wanted to work on for years. It seemed like the perfect project to do between changing diapers and going to work the grind everyday.
I’ll be honest; I really never thought we’d actually do it. To this day, I’m still surprised we did and amazed at how quickly the idea gained momentum. It’s like the bumbling idiot in a movie that forgets to apply the emergency brake after parking on a hill – the car starts rolling forward slowly, gaining more and more speed, and eventually the character resigns to the fact it’s unstoppable – sort of, exactly like that. I won’t forget the day I stood at the threshold of the shop while it was being demolished of the tenant that occupied it for the previous 23 years. There was a construction team, a city inspector, and myself. I phoned Beck immediately and said, “Ok, we’ve officially let go of the side of the pool – we have to make this work.”
While we pushed forward to get open I discovered that the run specialty industry had a side of politics that I wasn’t aware of and keenly naive about. In an effort to start bringing in what I felt were the brands any legitimate run shop should have I kept hitting the wall. A particular conversation that stood out for me was one I had with a footwear brand before we opened. The rep said to me “I’ve heard this a thousand times, a couple opens a shop, says they’re going to do things differently and it ends up being the same thing.” They did not open us as a stockist and neither did most others. Those conversations initially annoyed me but soon turned to frustration. The frustration that running retail couldn’t ever move forward and break the mold of the past few decades if the people at the helm were content with mediocrity.
Interactions like that eventually served to light the fire beyond what we had initially set out to do, and prove running retail could be changed and taken in a new direction. While we can now bring in shoes we ourselves have used for years and trust, we can also curate brands that are also pushing the limits of running like Newline and Satisfy and make no apologies whilst doing it.
I am very proud of what we have accomplished in two years and that while we’ve managed to grow our business we’ve tried to put back as much as we can. Flight Crew is our vehicle to do that – give back, collaborate, and grow the running community in a positive all-inclusive way. We’re doing that and we’re doing it together, every single time we lace up with one another.
I feel great joy seeing new faces arrive on a Flight Crew run. We’ve now gotten to a point where we simply provide the space and the leadership, and everyone that shows up brings the camaraderie, friendships and good vibes. Seeing you proudly wear Vancouver Running Co. and Flight Crew gear at our runs, different races and around the world still blows me away. That you want to represent and are proud to do so means so much to Beck and I and we will never take that for granted.
We will continue working hard and we will never become boring or complacent, settling for the industry norm is not of interest. We will always curate the very best in running clothing and footwear, keep our space open and friendly, devote as much to Flight Crew as we ask of you, and continue pushing running into the next phase whether it’s ready or not. We will work with innovators and community leaders, we will test the limits, and we will always keep you at the forefront of our decisions. We might fail sometimes and that’s ok, we know we can at least try because you’re all behind us.
You are why we are opening the doors today.
Rob SmithCo-ownerVancouver Running Co.