Wow! What an amazing weekend. It was wonderful to see so many friends competing at GOATz Hitchcock Experience 100 race near Honeycreek, IA. It is also equally wonderful to hear an out-of-state race director praise the 605 community so highly for their volunteerism and hard work. If you are reading this and have no idea what I’m talking about I’ll attempt to explain what happened last weekend.
This trail running event features multiple distances from 100 miles to a half marathon. My personal favorite was the 101k the hard way event. The event is a challenge. There are plenty of hills and it is December on the Iowa/Nebraska border. This means you’ve got a good chance at fresh snow and cold temperatures. We had multiple people both participate in the races and volunteer at aid stations.
Many of you might be reading this and think this all sounds crazy. You are not wrong, but you are also not right. I’ve moved beyond calling distances that I personally have no desire to attempt crazy or silly or something worse. I don’t think that is fair to trail runners, event organizers or volunteers. These events have a place in my heart. The sheer will to compete is a beautiful thing. For me as a life-long athlete and lover of nature I have a tremendous amount of respect for trail running and ultra marathoning.
Our running community is great. It doesn’t matter if it is a trail race, a road race or a group run, the 605 community shows up and shows out. It hasn’t always been this way. I’d like to think that our store has had a small impact on the growth and development of our running community.
Amongst the “refresh” clicks during the event and reading the post-race reports from so many 605ians I glanced at a sad post from a fellow running shop a little further to the south in Kansas City. It was a long post and it hit my stomach like a ton of bricks. Here is a small portion of the post.
“We are heartbroken to announce that we are closing Run 816. We have tried to be different, unconventional, and fiercely independent, but it wasn’t enough. We focused hard on customer experience and product knowledge, but it wasn’t enough. We believed that if you are good and do good that everything will work out, but that also wasn’t enough.”
The parallels here to our shop are eye opening. Independent, unconventional, different. Five years in business and a name using the area code. With Star Wars coming out this weekend this felt like Luke heading into the cave in Empire Strikes Back and facing Dearth Vader, cutting him down and seeing himself in the helmet. In the end that worked out okay for Luke (at least I think it did … the new movies have me confused and I haven’t seen the latest one). Bottom line is I’m sad to see an independent running shop go out of business.
We started 2019 off with a bang. Partnering with Pink Gorilla Events has allowed us to bring a truly unique event on a large scale to Sioux Falls by way of the Skedaddle. For me personally this is one of the largest professional undertakings I’ve ever been involved with. For 605 Running Company this event was a success. In order for it to be a success for the city, for our business partners and for our running community; it has to grow. This is an event created by runners for runners with the specific intent of showing off how wonderful the 605 Running Community can be.
Nationally, race attendance is dropping everywhere. Here I am in Sioux Falls trying to build up a race. To do this I flat out need this communities help. We need to think on a larger scale and work together to highlight our great city. I’m reminded of my friend and role model Nancy Savage down the street. She often tells the story of starting Child’s Play Toys in 2008 amidst the recession. This community has embraced her local toy store and this year she opened her second location. I want to be clear this isn’t a doom and gloom blog post. The Skedaddle is already a contender locally for overall race experience. My goal is to make it a regional champion and truly pull people to our great city to participate.
We had a nice year at 605 Running Company in terms of sales. I will always be open and honest with our community. We didn’t see the growth that we had in previous years. As a new business we anticipated the rate of growth to slow over time. In 2019 we basically have matched our numbers from 2018. What stands out though is that we did it in a very different way. Our foot traffic to the shop has been down all year and we have had fewer tickets each month compared to last year. This is concerning, but what helped us out this year was that I’m getting better at my job every buying season. Our turn rate and margins all went up in 2019 which means we sold a lot less stuff on clearance or closeout.
In no way am I an economist, but after looking at our business numbers and all of the things that have gone on in South Dakota this past year I’m actually proud of where we stand finishing up the year. It isn’t exactly where we wanted to be; but with record flooding, tornados and continued downtown construction on our block we did well. A wise business man in Downtown Sioux Falls once told me that as the farm economy goes so does Main Street. Our farmers have not had a friendly year. This all leaves me very optimistic about the direction we are going in 2020.
We have booked some amazing product to be in the store in 2020. Skedaddle registration is currently open and we’ve got a nice little announcement coming soon for the 2020 event. The Race Crew is going to be back and bigger and better than ever. I’ve already got the dates figured out for the Summer Race Series and we are making a slight change that should make a huge difference this year. Our Saturday group run will continue to be sponsored by Breadsmith of Sioux Falls and we are taking the hospitality up another notch, I just bought a toaster (if this isn’t on your current running schedule it needs to be) and we will continue our ROGA Wednesday night groups as well with the amazing Jeri Light.
A new year brings a few new surprises as well. Currently I’m working on a dozy. I’m not saying that I’ve got the Remedy to all that ales us, but our next secret will relay everything I’ve been discussing. That may not be cryptic enough. Oh well, it’s been a long blog post so some of you may not ever make it here anyway. Bottom line is 2020 is going to be a lot of fun and we are hiring. If you are looking for a sweet part time job submit an application and let’s talk. I’m looking for one more exceptional person to add to our team. We pay well for a part time gig and we offer plenty of perks. If you want to continue to grow our running community and love running seriously let’s chat. Finally, as a Dad I can say this. See you next decade!
Greg Koch is the Co-Owner and General Manager of 605 Running Company and Co-Produces the Sioux Falls Skedaddle Half Marathon. He serves on the Board of Directors for Downtown Sioux Falls, the 605 Race Crew and the Sioux Falls Area Running Club. When Greg isn’t with his family or working he enjoys being outside biking, kayaking, golfing or playing church softball.
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