In a community that reveres physical fitness and running, it's only fitting that one of Elmhurst's longest standing retail businesses is celebrating its tenth anniversary. The Runner's Soul opened its doors on October 28, 2004 and has since evolved to become a valued resource in the Elmhurst community.
"We like to say, Come for the shoes, stay for the schmooze," says owner Jayne Aspan, who has been the sole owner of The Runner's Soul for its entire ten year tenure. Stellar customer service is a guiding philosophy here, starting with each salesperson at the two locations, all the way on up to Aspan, the owner.
Aspan began running after the birth of her first child as a way to get in shape. She was quickly hooked and began running regularly with the Elmhurst Running Club. With the community of runners, as well as a nationally recognized running program at York High School, she saw a need for a neighborhood store that could meet the needs of this active community. And thus The Runner's Soul was born.
The store prides itself on catering to both experienced runners as well as those brand new to running. They offer numerous in-store training programs for runners of all levels, themed fun run nights, and frequent in-store parties and seminars. Aspan is also a huge supporter of local business, which she believes offers a valuable service to the community. As the owner, Jayne has actively been a part of both the Elmhurst and La Grange (her second location) communities, supporting many charities and non-profit organizations through sponsorships and donations.
Shopping local is so important, she believes. "You'll pay the exact same price for a shoe at a big box store," she said. "But you won't get the hands on customer service that you'll get here - our staff's knowledge base, their fitting process, the great selection of shoes. We like to get to know our customers and treat them like family."
In fact, Aspan happened to run into her very first customer randomly on her store's anniversary while shopping at Whole Foods. When you run a local mom and pop shop, you get to know your regular customers very well - Aspan has seen this woman's grandchildren grow up during the past ten years.
And that's really what it's all about. That close touch with your community.
Sadly, though, the past couple of years has taken a serious toll on many Elmhurst businesses, with several longtime stores closing down, such as Al's Hobby Shop and Leonard's. Aspan sees the difficulty that a town like Elmhurst faces, with being minutes away from the successful and classic Oak Brook Mall.
"If small businesses are going to survive in this market, there needs to be a reason to make people come downtown," she said. "A high diversity of restaurants is a good start."
Aspan herself recently completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, an ambitious initiative to help educate and provide resources to entrepreneurs across the country. Small businesses have generated 64 percent of net new jobs over the past 15 years; and they represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, hire 40 percent of high tech workers, and produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms, according to the Small Business Administration.
"Being selected as part of this fabulous program last year really helped me grow as a small business owner," she shared. "It gave me the tools for my next phase of growth."
What will the next ten years hold for Aspan and her business? We look forward to their continued success in the community.
And as former alderman, running enthusiast, and manager of The Runner's Soul in Elmhurst Dan Kozdron says to each customer, "Thanks for keeping me employed."
Please support your small businesses on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday shopping season and help keep Main Street alive and kicking. The Runner's Soul will be offering great deals on their running gear and active apparel on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season. Come on out and shop!