After quitting their jobs in the corporate world, Mike and Maya Anderson turned a front porch epiphany into one of Toronto’s coolest running stores, opening the first BlackToe Running location at King and Bathurst in Toronto’s entertainment district. Eight years later, they’ve opened a second location in midtown, at 2488 Yonge St.
Mike and Maya always had the goal of opening a second store. “Not everyone can make it to our downtown location, and we wanted to provide a community for runners in Toronto’s midtown,” Mike says. Another key aspect of the new location is that the store sits close to some of the city’s best running spots. Between the Kay Gardner Belt Line, Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Sunnybrook Park, there are numerous choices for their customers to hit the trails. “Runability was a key component to selecting the new store location,” says Mike. “Like with our first store, we want to build a running group and host community runs and events out of this new location.”
The store opened with a soft launch in mid-April; BlackToe midtown hosted its first event at the new store on the weekend of May 14. “We hosted over 100 runners at a community tune-up run for the Pride and Remembrance Run,” says Mike. The event offered it all, from singing drag queens to fun treats to a chance to demo a pair of Hoka shoes.
The grand opening celebration for the new store will take place on Saturday, May 28 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, May 29 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. “We are very excited to host and connect runners from our downtown location and our new runners in midtown,” Maya says. “There will be raffles for shoes, a Theragun massage gun and other really cool items.” Those who attend the grand opening can also expect to receive gifts with purchase and get the chance to demo some of the new shoe releases. “We want our grand opening to be an immersive shopping experience to welcome the midtown community into our new store,” she adds.
The name, BlackToe Running, came from what Maya thought about Mike’s feet. “Mike has run several marathons in his day, and all the mileage has resulted in some black toes,” says Maya. One thing that has made this independent running store successful is its ability to adapt and understand the demographic. “We have been very analytical on where we wanted to open both stores,” says Mike. “Our job as business owners is to attract and create a community for the residents in the area.”
Like many small businesses, initially, the impact of the pandemic was severe. “We had to shut down the store immediately and temporarily lay off all our staff, who we considered our family,” Mike says. Then the sport of running experienced a boom, as gyms were closed and people were forced to exercise outside. BlackToe’s orders went through the roof, and Mike and Maya had to adapt on the go, fulfilling orders day-in and day-out at their downtown location. Once they were able to bring staff back into the store, they pulled the trigger on opening the new location.
“We always wanted to open another location, we were just waiting for the right time,” says Maya.
The new store will be similar to the first location, but with a modern, midtown twist. “It’s cosy, and there is more modern tech,” says Mike. “I think we have the coolest change room in all of running. It’s supposed to be reminiscent of the inside of a shoebox. It’s a small room that we think used to be a bank vault. It wasn’t movable, because you can’t move a vault, so we made it our change room.”
Keep an eye on the BlackToe social pages, as the Andersons plan to host future special events at the new midtown location. They are currently hosting BlackToe Run Club workouts on Wednesday nights. The new run club is already popular and is a chance for the community to get to know each other.