I don’t know what got me started jogging around my neighborhood, but I can remember the first few runs being absolutely brutal forms of torture that I just wanted to end. I could go maybe a tenth of a mile before my lungs felt like collapsing, my legs would tense up and my entire back felt like it was being stretched awkwardly in multiple directions. By half a mile in, I had to stop and walk myself home, vowing to never do this again, at least until the next time. The more I ran, endurance was built up, the pain sort of went away and I found myself enjoying the solitude of tracking through the community with earbuds in and my playlist on high. It’s at times still torturous, but always ends with a sense of accomplishment.
I’m by no means a runner; I consider myself novice at best. I’ve done the Climb for Life the past three years and try to run a couple 5Ks a year, but I do these events with no fanfare, expectation or skill. It’s a personal thing for me, but there is an entire running community in Rhode Island, and Rhode Runner is doing a great job educating and keeping that community together.
Realizing that the area was in need of a shop that would benefit local runners, Bob and Colleen Bischoff opened Rhode Runner in 2001. Bob worked at New Balance building performance shoes and they thought that the area was lacking a location where runners and walkers could properly be fit. Their goal was to not only carry the best available shoes and clothing for runners, but to educate customers on fitting, training and nutrition. The Bischoffs wanted this to be more than a show store — an ideal that they carry with them to this day.
“We believed that we had the knowledge to service the needs of the running/walking consumer,” Bob Bischoff said.
Through the years, they have hired a staff made up of health conscious people who believe running and walking to be a way of life. While the staff has a couple of elite runners (Patrick Moulton and Eric Lonergan, general manager and marketing manager respectively), running is a fun hobby for the other members of the team. This has led to very little staff turnover.
“The staff is an extended family,” Bischoff says. “We treat them with respect and allow them to shape the brand we call Rhode Runner.”
The love that the staff of Rhode Runner have for all things running bleeds through to their customer service. Working at the store has become more than selling someone a shoe or a sports bra, but inviting them to share common interests, becoming both teachers and learners. Bischoff proudly boasts that his staff are what sets Rhode Runner apart from the tons of other stores in the area that sell running shoes.
“Let’s face it, product is everywhere. We do a lot more than sell running product. We are a resource that helps keep you healthy, helps direct you to doctors, PT, local events and create community bonding. First and foremost, we care about you as a fellow runner. We are here because we love the sport and continue to find ways to get the message out.”
Rhode Runner is more than a store that sells products. They have booths at numerous races around the state. They host clinics on various topics, attend health fairs and run a few programs. They have a running group, aptly called “Run Club,” and will create a Couch to 5K plan, which is designed to get an inactive runner ready for a 5K in 10-12 weeks.
Bischoff feels that a great local business is one that gives back to the community that supports it. Rhode Runner supports hundreds of events and donates hundreds of hours to something that all 18 staff members believe in. They also support their customers with the same care and intellect.
“We value our relationships with our customers above all else and are a resource for each and every one of them. Whether it is answering a question about footwear, hosting an apparel clinic, creating a couch to 5K plan, supporting a local 5K with a donation of gift cards, writing a check to a local charity or raising money to help a customer battle ALS, we’re here to support the local community any way we can.”
Rhode Runner is located at 657 North Main St in Providence. Hours are Monday-Friday 10am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday Noon – 5pm
You can reach them by calling 401-831-6346 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
You can find them online at rhoderunner.com. They are also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and You Tube.