Employment and Jobs

The Retail Marathon – People, Practices, Power, Performance

September 18, 2017  • Mark G. Popovich & Amanda Newman

“The person who starts the race is not the same person who finishes the race,” so noted a sign at a recent marathon. The trope of challenging journeys that reshape character is common in sports. It also applies well to Charm City Run, a Baltimore-area running and walking specialty store.  The company certainly equips and trains those “starters” and “finishers.” Since launching a single storefront in 2002, the enterprise has evolved to match their changing business goals, methods, and operation’s scale.

Charm City Run, or CCR, is growing even as thousands of retail outlets have closed across the country this year alone. The number of running stores has slumped by three hundred in recent years. As so many drop off pace, or hang on with ever-dwindling hopes, CCR has upped their investment to eight locations, with the latest opening on the Baltimore waterfront in the hotspot Fells Point neighborhood.

CCR is a top performer in an increasingly tough retail market. And its people make it possible.

Josh and Kara Levinson are avid runners and entrepreneurs who started the business after moving from Austin in 2002. Their plans were based on the legendary RunTex stores and run culture guru Paul Carrozza. After 25 years, however, RunTex shut down. The Levinsons, in contrast, remain literally and figurately with the fleet footed. They continue in the leaders’ pack 15 years in as CCR’s owners and animating spirit.

CCR’s people practices have made them a national champion-caliber retailer. What insights can others derive from the CCR model? The Economic Opportunities Program’s Good Companies/Good Jobs initiative is learning about companies that achieve great outcomes financially and for frontline workers. In studying organizations like CCR, we aim to capture and disseminate case studies to help companies, investors, and lenders understand what it takes to match these top-level performers that produce outstanding bottom-line performance.

“The staff of Charm City Run embodies everything that is great about locally owned running stores. They share their passion of running by taking the necessary time to help each and every customer. Running is for everyone and Charm City Run makes everyone feel like they belong.”
-Brian Metzler in selecting CCR as Running Store of the Year 2016

CCR’s store is good because the staff is good. And the store and staff are good together.  That’s not just their opinion.  In late 2016, Competitor and trade magazine Running Insight named them the “Running Store of the Year.” They earned top marks for service quality, staff approachability, and product knowledge. The Baltimore Sun named them a top small employer workplace annually so far from 2014 through 2016. They are the only retailer on the 2016 list. At the time, CCR’s Chief Operating Officer Tom Mansfield noted their success factors: “We are nothing without our people and the attitude and energy they bring to our stores every day. Every one of our employees knows that they are the reason Charm City Run exists.”  CCR also garnered SmartCEO’s Corporate Culture of 2016 recognition as well.

CCR stands out among retailers and small- to medium-size businesses for its people practices.  Their approach is well aligned with their business strategy. We snagged time for a recent chat with Tom Mansfield to learn more. Having worked at CCR in a number of positions with the company for over a decade, Tom has seen it all. Tom started at CCR during college as a part-time sales associate, became a supervisor, manager, and now works with the founders and CCR team as General Manager and Chief Operating Officer.

Join in on an interview with Tom Mansfield to learn about the practices and strategies that allow CCR to be Doing Great and Doing Good.

Read the full story
Workforce Development
Long Run: People Practices Power Running Store’s Performance
September 18, 2017 • Mark G. Popovich & 1 more