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Unlike Big-Box stores, Small Offer Specialized Care

BALTIMORE - Big-box sporting good stores such as the Sports Authority and Dick’s appear to be putting smaller mom-and-pop sporting good stores out of business, a few Wall Street analysts suggest.

Edward Weller, a financial analyst with Think Equity Partners in San Francisco, said Sports Authority and Dick’s are expanding with new stores, including several opening in Maryland. That is putting mom-and-pop stores out of business, Weller said.

Not so, according to Jim Adams and Deneen Habarta, owners of Falls Road Running Store and 5K Run Shop in Baltimore, respectively. They have found a niche market of customers looking for special products, special care and knowledge.

Both stores carry products from manufacturers such as Adidas, AmphiPod, Asics, BodyGlide, Brooks, Cliff Bar, CoolMax , Fila, Fuel Belt, Lin Socks, Louis Garneau, Mizuno, Nathan, New Balance, Nike and Puma. Those names may be foreign to the novice, but they are necessities to the serious runner.

“We serve the needs of runners and walkers,” said Jim Adams, owner of Falls Road Running Store at 6247 Falls Road in Baltimore.

He said the store sells training shoes that are good for treadmill running and workouts.

“If you’re looking for a football shoe, we don’t have it. If you need a basketball shoe, we don’t have it. If you need a tennis shoe, we don’t have it,” Adams said.

But their niche is having salespeople with a passion for running and jogging, and stocking the special gear demanded by runners, such as socks that don’t absorb sweat and thus create foot blisters, Adams said.

In fact, his store doesn’t carry cotton socks because the serious runner won’t wear them.

Adams is an avid runner and his shop sponsors runs and helps competitors get special gear.

Deneen Habarta, owner of 5K Run Shop at 736 S. Bond Street in Baltimore, has run more than eight marathons and competes in several Baltimore City running events.

For runners there is a big difference between the big-box retailers and shops like hers, she said.

“The level of customer service is different,” Harbata said.

“Our staff is extremely well versed in the product and how to fit the product with what the customers needs,” she said.


I wrote the linked article a few years ago, and for the most part it is still accurate.