Indie store profile: The Runners Shop, Toronto

the runners shop

Elaine McCrea is the owner and manager of The Runners Shop on Bloor Street in Toronto. We caught up with her to ask a few questions about the store.

The Runners Shop

When did you open the Runners Shop?

The store’s founder, David Ellis, originally opened the store in 1975. When David retired in 1997, he wanted someone to carry on the tradition of Canada’s oldest specialty running store, so he sold the business to me and I am still hard at it today.

Why did you want to manage a specialty running store?

Like many others, I purchased my first pair of real running shoes from David while I was still in high school. In the years between high school and taking over The Runners Shop, I was a competitive runner, studied Kinesiology and worked in specialty running retail for 10 years. I loved being involved in the sports industry and, when the option of owning my own business came up, I jumped at the opportunity.

I feel very lucky to be able to spend my working life immersed in an industry that I am so passionate about.

Is there any cool history behind the store, such as where it’s located or how it became what it is today?

The original owner, David Ellis, enjoyed a career as an international calibre runner, competing for both Great Britain and Canada in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games. It was this passion and commitment to running that led to the initial success of The Runners Shop and we continue to operate with the same passion today. The shop is still operating at the same location after 39 years. Next year The Runners Shop will celebrate its 40th Anniversary!

What talents do your staff bring to the business? Why are they the best for the job?

Myself and all my staff are avid athletes with a deep depth of knowledge and experience. We have 5K and 10K runners, marathon specialists and triathletes working in our store. There is not much we don’t know about the sport. We love helping novices who are new to running and more experienced athletes who have been doing it as long as we have. We are dedicated to delivering great customer service and are committed to ensuring that customers have the very best equipment and advice to succeed in achieving their goals.

How is the Runners Shop involved in the Toronto running community? What do you offer above and beyond sales that customers can look to you for?

We’re firmly committed to our community and are a supporter of several local road races, triathlons and community fundraisers. We feel good about supporting organizations that promote fitness and friendly competition while at the same time providing an avenue for excellence in athletics.

We also have weekly walking and running clinics at the store. Even after many years of joyful running, there are still days when I need a little help to get out the door. That’s why I believe in the power of the pack when it comes to keeping on track with my lifelong quest for fitness.

We have a wonderful group involved in our running clinics. Our group includes runners training for many different distances at many different paces. Without a doubt, regardless of our speed or aspirations, we all benefit from the camaraderie and support we give each other.

We also host a small but vibrant and friendly group that meets every Saturday morning at the shop at 10 a.m. to do some power walking.

What makes your store stand out, compared to more generic sporting good stores or other retail outlets? What do you offer to customers that they can’t get elsewhere?

Rather than having many staff who know a little bit about a lot of sports, we have a select team who know one sport inside and out. We specialize in running and are happy to share our knowledge and own experience to ensure that every customer leaves with the right product for them. Our testimonials speak for themselves; knowledgeable patient staff, unparalleled service and excellent product range.