Local running store is headed by athletes

Posted April 13, 2007

The corporate world was just not cut out for Rod Crowell.

He knew that something was missing in his work life and he needed a change.

One day he decided to make a list of all the business ideas he could think of doing.

He always wanted to own his own business and this was his chance.
Finally he could make all his own business choices.

He had been tired. He had been tired of questioning corporate business decisions that just didn’t make sense in his engineering work.

So, he made a list. He found that, of all the small business options that he could pursue, opening a running store would be fulfilling for him both mentally and economically.

“I’m a recreational runner,” Crowell said. “I’m not super talented, but I’ve always liked running.”

And so he opened Top Speed Running, a small store where professional runners help customers with all their running needs.

Located on Foothill Boulevard in La Verne, Top Speed Running brings back the fun and technical support every runner needs to have a successful and painless running experience.

“What we do is unique in a lot of ways,” Rob Lander, the manager of Top Speed Running said. “Kinesiology is the study of human movement and that’s kind of what we do here. We analyze peoples’ gate which is really important when choosing the right (running) shoe for them.”

The store is completely staffed by runners including the owner Crowell, as well as the manager Lander whose background lies in kinesiology, therefore further enabling him to assist clientele with their physical exercise needs.

From running shoes to running clothing and accessories, Top Speed has taken the competition by storm in simply supplying its customers with the information and equipment they need to succeed.

“We make sure people get the right shoe and the right size,” Crowell said. “We take out a pair of shoes and watch you run in them.”

And with five experienced runners on staff, it’s no surprise that runners choose to come to them rather than other big box retailers.

This is the start of their 5th year of business and as far as customers go, they haven’t lost one yet.

They stay ahead of the game by simply providing as much information to their customers as possible.

“We get a lot of people who don’t run very much, but would like to start,” Crowell said. “We give you personal service; we watch you run on the treadmill and we watch to see what your mechanics are. We match the right shoes for the right person.”

This is what makes Top Speed standout from other, much larger stores; it’s their personal assistance to each and every foot that runs through their door.

“Sometimes a lot of people will talk about your arch type,” Crowell said. “But that’s only half of it, you really have to watch someone run to see what shoe would be best for them.”

In terms of expansion, Top Speed tends to focus on expansion of quality rather than quantity; they would rather provide the best products possible for their customers rather than buying up new locations.

“We’re always looking for ways to grow,” Crowell said. “Right now we’re bringing in more products and we’ve just added our fifth employee.”

Being a small business, one of their greatest challenges is finding new customers. They do a lot of advertising, but sometimes it’s just hard to get noticed.

“The challenge is always having people find us,” Crowell said.

Even so, Top Speed still manages to have a healthy range of clientele and with such a great reputation among its current customers, the magical success of “word of mouth” plays a big role for their customer base.

“My sister was the one who told me about this store,” Joyce Tucker, a retiree from the Claremont Unified School District, said. “We go to the same foot doctor, so it’s all word of mouth.”

Rose Adams had a similar experience. “I went to the doctor and they said my arch was falling and told me to come here,” Adams said. “I do a lot of walking … and I needed some good tennis shoes because my feet were hurting.”

When it’s comfort and stability that people need, it seems as though doctors are the ones who even recommend that their patients go to Top Speed.

This is a major example of how successful and accurate this business is when it comes to customer service.

Even if their customers are not runners, but would just like to walk down the street painlessly, Top Speed can outfit them in comfortable shoes.

“People that are old just want to be able to walk, and we can get them the right shoes,” Lander said. “I’ve been a runner for 20 years and I’m the head cross country coach at Claremont High; my background is just helping people with mechanical issues.”

Shoes are definitely the most common item that customers come to Top Speed for, but they also sell running apparel as well as energy supplements and various running accessories.

The Nutrition Zone is a local store nearby that feels a definite benefit from being in the same complex as Top Speed Running.

“People that go to them are going to come to us to buy their supplements,” Mark Dorado, manager of the Nutrition Zone said. “That’s probably why were both in the same complex.”

And with an L.A. Fitness location nearby, it seems as though many of the surrounding businesses benefit from each other’s clientele.

Because the nearest running store is at least 15 to 20 miles away, Top Speed has little to no competition.

“We’re not competing head to head with anyone,” Crowell said. “Our prices are extremely competitive or we wouldn’t be successful.”

Success is the name of the game for small businesses, and that is what has definitely kept Top Speed Running at the height of its game. It is the runners running store.

It is doctor recommended and customer approved.

And, with a qualified staff on call to help customers with all their questions, it’s no surprise that Rod Crowell has made a success of Top Speed Running by simply being able to make his own business decisions.

“One secret to success is that in four years, no one has ever left,” Crowell said.

Katherine Hillier can be reached at khillier@ulv.edu.

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