Seattle transplants open Detroit’s first running store in Midtown

Run Detroit co-owner Alia Polsgrove poses inside the new store.

To hear its owners tell it, opening Run Detroit, the city’s only running retail store, was a case of hitting on an opportunity to meet a pent-up demand.

“One of the things we weren’t prepared for is people walking into the shop and thanking us for opening a store,” said co-owner Justin Craig, 33. “People are so grateful they don’t have to leave the city to buy necessities.”

Craig and partner Alia Polsgrove, 30, officially opened for business on June 1, offering running shoes, apparel, water bottles, nutritional supplements, physical-therapy tools and even medical knowledge (more on that later) to runners who live, work or just run in the city.

Run Detroit joins a rapidly emerging retail district in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood.

Carved out of a former Detroit Public Schools warehouse — before that it was used by Willys-Overland Motors, an early forerunner of the Jeep brand — Run Detroit is directly across the street from retail shops City Bird and Nest, and just around the corner from The Auburn and its growing list of first-floor retail stores. The warehouse spaces surrounding it are also under renovation: bicycle and wristwatch maker Shinola will soon open a showroom and assembly facility next door, while Polsgrove says other spaces are being prepared for Avalon International Breads’ new bakery and coffee shop and a Vietnamese restaurant.

“You’ve got your running, and runners like beer, so you’ve got Motor City (Brewing Works) and Traffic Jam, and then turn it around and you have Avalon,” Polsgrove said, referring to the store’s other neighbors.

‘Land of opportunity’

Craig and Polsgrove were living in Seattle but had visited the Detroit area several times — Polsgrove is originally from Monroe — and had run in races such as the Great Lakes Relay, Dances With Dirt and the Detroit Free Press marathon.

“We wanted to come back here,” Polsgrove said. “We weren’t sure what we’d do when we got back here. We knew there were tons of runners and walkers and no store to support them.”

Craig had worked in orthopedic medicine as an assistant for spine and, later, foot and ankle surgeons but became “burned out” by the long hours and other factors. So he quit his job and went to work with some friends who ran a running store in his native Seattle.

Did Polsgrove have to twist his arm to come to Detroit?

“Not at all,” Craig says. “For us, Detroit is just kind of the land of opportunity. There is so much that Detroit doesn’t have in terms of services that I think there is a lot of opportunity for people to do things here in the city.”

The two ended up buying a 100 year-old home in Detroit’s West Village neighborhood to renovate. “Coming from Seattle prices, it’s almost mind-boggling how inexpensive homes are here,” Craig said.

Getting off the ground

The two started kicking around the idea of opening a store here last summer while in town to run a race and driving around different neighborhoods to get a feel for the city.

Once they settled on a location, they worked with Midtown Detroit Inc. and researched leisure trends and local demographics to help make their dream a reality. They used the proceeds from the sale of their Seattle home, plus a business loan from Invest Detroit, and spent about $75,000 to get the store off the ground.

Their goal is to provide a unique level of customer care, which includes drawing from Craig’s knowledge of the human foot.

“We really focus on a high level of customer care,” Polsgrove says. “We want to take care of every single person who comes in here and we want to find the perfect shoe for them.”

Run Detroit is hosting group runs of 3, 6 and 10 miles from its store each Saturday at 8 a.m. The store is located at 441 W. Canfield St. #5. Call (313) 649-7863.


Read 5 Comments

    1. Me too, Greg. I think geographically there has long been a hole in service for us runners, and I see more and more runners in the city these days, which is great. I hope they do well.

  1. I love Detroit, born and raised, and with all the negative things you hear about Detroit on a daily basis, It just makes my heart smile to hear about some of the positive things happening in Detroit. It gives us Detroit fans hope for a better tomorrow. Thank you Run Detroit and all of the other retailers who believe in this city. You are a blessing.

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