Cathie Anderson

Two running stores dash over to Folsom

Running stores flock to Folsom seeking active, affluent shoppers

Leon Shahinian talks about the philosophy of Gold Country Run & Sport, which established its first store two years ago in El Dorado Hills and recently opened a new store in Folsom.
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Leon Shahinian talks about the philosophy of Gold Country Run & Sport, which established its first store two years ago in El Dorado Hills and recently opened a new store in Folsom.

Owners of two regional running stores are making their move on Folsom’s active, affluent consumers, opening stores within a couple miles of each other on busy Folsom-Auburn Road.

After 31 years in Fair Oaks, Will Roxburgh soon will be relocating his Fleet Feet franchise to 6610 Folsom-Auburn Road. And, after only two years at El Dorado Town Center, Leon Shahinian couldn’t resist opening a second Gold Country Run & Sport at 7610 Folsom-Auburn Road. Both stores lie near entrances to the American River trail.

“It’s been a great location for us, being on the corner of Madison and Fair Oaks, two main arteries in the Sacramento region,” said Roxburgh. “But our market has … shifted east, so we’ve been looking at the Folsom market for the last 10 years.”

Roxburgh said he delayed a move to Folsom five years ago, opting instead to expand his other store at 1850 Douglas Blvd. in Roseville. The proximity to the bike trail will allow him to start and end runs from the store, he said, and he’s building a deck behind the store where he will be able to hold clinics on nutrition, training and other topics.

Shahinian already has begun doing those things at his store. While he’d like to have a little more space, he said, he really loved the fact that all runners have to do is cross the street and they’re on the bike trail. Also, because his store is just a couple doors down from Folsom Bike, he said, he foresees a lot of referrals between the store for the duathlon-triathlon crowd.

“We wanted to be the leading running store on the Highway 50 corridor, serving Placerville down to Folsom,” Shahinian said. “But as we looked at our customer data, we saw a lot of people who shopped in our store lived in El Dorado Hills. They were coming down from Cameron Park and Shingle Springs and Placerville. We didn’t see as many people coming up the hill from Folsom as we’d anticipated.”

When Shahinian got the idea for his business, he said, he and business partner Donn Cox approached the Fleet Feet franchisor about opening a store in El Dorado Hills, but were told the chain already had that market covered.

The two men were disappointed, Shahinian said, but at least they had confirmed they wouldn’t have a Fleet Feet pop up in their market after they made an investment. Their staff uses video gait analysis to determine the best shoes to put customers in, he said, technology long used at Boulder Running Co., the store founded by well-known distance runners Johnny Halberstadt and Mark Plaatjes.

The El Dorado Town Center store did so well, Shahinian said, that he and Cox decided to invest in another storefront in Folsom. Both were surprised to learn that Fleet Feet Fair Oaks was moving to Folsom.

“I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to have two running stores in the same town,” Shahinian said. “This area is just going to become a huge hub for runners. … There are great trails for walking and running, but there wasn’t a great running store in El Dorado Hills or Folsom, serving all those people’s needs.”

During the interview with Roxburgh, he too said it was time Folsom had a standout running store. Both men are residents of foothills towns: the 49-year-old Shahinian in El Dorado Hills; 55-year-old Roxburgh, Folsom. Both graduated from Sacramento State’s business college. They attended high schools that sit within a few blocks of each other near the American River Parkway: Roxburgh, Jesuit High School; Shahinian, Rio Americano.

While Shahinian said he chose to launch a store in Folsom because he wasn’t seeing enough Folsom ZIP codes in his customer base, Roxburgh said he’s moving his store there because ZIP codes show that much of his customer base is driving to Fair Oaks from Folsom.

The lease was up on the Fleet Feet space at 8128 Madison Ave., Roxburgh said, so it was a good time to make the move. His new space in Folsom will be between Coffee Republic and Pampered Pet.

Roxburgh bought his Fair Oaks franchise back when he was 23 years old, he said, and founder Sally Edwards still owned the business. He recalled going to Fleet Feet headquarters, now the home of Beach Hut Deli, on J Street to talk to Edwards about getting started.

“I’m now one of the oldest franchisees,” Roxburgh said. “When I started, I remember going to the first Fleet Feet conference and I was 23, and I know people were looking at me like, ‘Yeah, right, this isn’t going to last long.’ I thought, ‘I’ve just got to make it a year, and then I’ll have some credibility.’ ”

He launched the Tri for Fun sprint triathlon series with his brother Jim Roxburgh, then one of his business partners, to market the store. They attracted about 300 participants the first year, Will Roxburgh said, and built it up to about 1,000 by the time they sold it in 1999. That event helped them gain credibility with veteran franchisees, but it also cemented their reputation with amateur athletes in the region.

“The sport of triathlon was in its infancy at that time,” Roxburgh said, “and customers would come. I would mention the sport of triathlon and everybody was like, ‘My God, I could never do that.’ ”

The Fleet Feet team helped their customers gain competence and confidence, he said, and people have come back and referred friends and family because of the reputation they built. His staff focuses on putting all runners in the right shoe, he said, and they help women find the right sports bra.

Roxburgh will have 2,800 square feet at his Folsom store, compared with 2,200 in Fair Oaks. His inspiration for the store, he said, came from the Nike store on Union Street in San Francisco and the Lululemon store in Huntington Beach.

Customers can expect an open, energetic space that has a lot of warmth with mannequins showing off the clothing, floors made of reclaimed wood and a combination of natural and LED light, he said. Contractors had to engineer the wall in order to add windows at the front of the store.

Cathie Anderson: 916-321-1193, @CathieA_SacBee