In an era when locally owned retail shops struggle to keep pace, a can-do shoe store has expanded into a two-store operation, making tracks from the east side to Oro Valley.
Fleet Feet Tucson at Oracle Crossings, 7607 N. Oracle Road, opened in August, giving northwest-side residents another option to buy workout shoes locally. The company has 10 employees between the two stores.
Owner Jeanne Snell and her husband, Pete, opened their first Fleet Feet at 7301 E. Tanque Verde Road in 2004..
“We’ve built a customer base over the years, and we really wanted to give better service to customers who live in the northwest,” she said. “We didn’t want them to have to drive all the way across town to get there.”
Snell said the store has proven popular with area shoppers, matching the foot traffic of the Tanque Verde store in its first months.
“I love Fleet Feet,” said municipal worker Laura Jestings, 52, who is training for a half-marathon. “They’re passionate about running and passionate about their customers. They’re so attentive to customer service, and focus on finding you the right shoe.”
Jestings said she will go out of her way to support local businesses and calls Fleet Feet “a fabulous outfit with fabulous people.”
After shopping at the Tanque Verde location, she was impressed with the shop on Oracle.
”It’s beautiful. Brand-new and spotless,” she said. “It’s very, very pretty.”
Snell said Fleet Feet is on track to increase its revenue for the 10th consecutive year.
“Every day we are thankful that we continued to grow through the whole recession,” Snell said. “It’s been good. We feel very fortunate about that.”
Dan Garcia, who has been with the company for eight years, is managing the new store. He said employee enthusiasm is what keeps Fleet Feet moving.
“I think it’s the passion for what we do that makes us successful,” he said. “I think customers can feel the excitement of our employees when they come in and see they love what they do, which is helping people. That part is infectious, and it keeps customers coming back. It keeps them joining our training programs, talking about us and telling people to check out this place.”
The 2,900-square-foot store has a treadmill, which employees record on camera and analyze for movement tendencies. It’s part of a 45- to 60-minute shoe-fitting regimen that includes an interview and fittings.
Employees work hard to make sure customers find the right shoe, Garcia said.
“A lot of education goes into it, in terms of looking for something that makes their workouts better. The right shoes can make a big difference,” he said. “We talk about stretching and nutrition, too. A lot of people come to the store and get a lot of information. That keeps them out there working out and coming back in again for the same experience.”
Customers are particularly interested in accessories that make workouts go better, such as foam rollers that help loosen tight muscles and skin tape that is said to increase blood flow, Snell said.
“It’s something we have expanded over the past few years,” she said.
Garcia said finding the right shoe can mean the difference between a couch potato and avid athlete.
“You can get issues like knee pain, shin pain or hip pain,” he said.”If you don’t have the right shoe, you have the mind-set that if you aren’t wearing comfortable shoes, do you really want to go out there for very long? It becomes something that you associate pain with, so you’re less likely to do it. If your feet don’t have any blisters and the physical aspects aren’t holding you back, you’re more likely to be active.”