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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

The Briefing

In Louisiana, laissez les bon temps rouler means “let the good times roll.” For Charlie Hoover, co-owner with his wife Ava and friend Craig Chambers of Phidippides, the motto might be more appropriately amended to “let the good times run.” Founded in 1980 when interest in running began to pick up pace, the Encino athletic shoe store started out as one of 60 in a nationwide chain. By 1984, the parent company was gone and now the store Hoover and his colleagues run on Ventura Boulevard is one of only two remaining Phidippides outlets. With determination, attention to detail and a storehouse of knowledge gained from participating in more than 200 marathons, Hoover and company have grown the specialty running store slowly and steadily. Contributing reporter Cynthia E. Griffin talked to Hoover about the challenges of a running shoe store in a changing market environment. “It’s real easy to be successful, when (your business) is the big thing. But it’s something else when you have to survive on your expertise in the field. “For us, service is always a part of what we offer. We run the business from the customer’s standpoint; the way we want to be treated. We’re all runners. We understand running shoes. We know what people are talking about when they describe the experience of running. There is a basic understanding of customer needs because we have the same needs. “If you look at the running shoe market, there are 100 shoes out there. It’s a bewildering choice for customers when they don’t understand anything about shoe construction, components or materials. And they know little or nothing about the biomechanics. Our job is to watch the customer run, to take into account weight and the bio-mechanical issues that might affect the shoe. We try to whittle it down to a set of shoes that are technically in the ball park. “We can’t tell if you’ll like the feel of the shoe or like it bigger or shorter, but we can give guidance. “In addition to running, there is a growing new component to our business. Back when we first opened, everybody was running. Now fully half of our business is not running but orthopedic referrals. It’s older customers with foot and fit problems, and physical ailments. We also get a lot of diabetics. “We also get a lot of business through the clinics I do for groups like the Long Beach Marathon. I do about a dozen clinics a year, and that’s very important for us. Lots of people at the clinics don’t know anything about shoes, and they’re new to running. They hear my presentation, and say, ‘Hey, why don’t I go to his store?’ “I think indirectly we’ve adapted to the changes in running. It happened because we’re so good at what we do with customers and shoes. We’ve picked up business that might otherwise not have been drawn to us. We didn’t actively go out and try to adapt to the change. We’re good enough at what we do that people need our services. And those people sought us out.”

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