Who said it was hard to make new friends? It only takes a little exercise in College Town, apparently!
The Rochester Running Company, developed by owner Jonathan Griffiths, is not only a place to give advice on shoes to meet the specific needs of each individual, but home to a community of people that come together every week to do what they love: run.
The University of Rochester and College Town area is rather special as it is close to some of the best parks in New York for running, as well as its very ‘hometown’ feeling. This running store isn’t your typical Dicks or Sports Authority, it is a different generation of an athletic company. The store is small enough to get the best customer service, kindness, and support from a small owned business, yet it has the access for a plethora of friends, athletes, and strangers that will cheer you on with a smile.
“I wouldn’t have started running without this store,” Kaity Baum, a frequent runner and shopper, said. “I kept coming back because it was an excuse to do something… it’s just a nice place to be, and there’s so much here [in Rochester] to take advantage of with a great group of people.”
The company exploded in popularity after pacers became available. Over the first few months, maybe ten to twelve people would show up for a run, but now the typical number is 80, and sometimes goes up to about 130. In just over two years, this local business has built a community for people of all ages and fitness levels to collaborate with and do what they love.
Volunteer pacers afford structure to group runs, so everyone has someone to run with, whether you’re a beginner or a veteran of the group. There is a wealth of knowledge seen in all these individual runners, which truly helps the newbies adapt to this new hobby.
Greg Casto, an employee of the company, joined this community about 18 months ago by coming along for group runs, specifically the beer runs.
“It’s [a] way to have the elevator talk that nobody has anymore; it can be really awkward running with people for group runs,” he said. “There’s 120 people you don’t know, but afterwards, [talk] to at least 10 people, and eventually you’ll open up and running served as a great gateway to have experiences.”
After making many friends and becoming close to Griffiths, he took a job to continue making Rochester Running Company better. Befriending the people there gave him an excuse to either get a good workout in, or finish up working at the store, and then grab a beer afterwards. Just coming along one day to run and get a beer after has made Casto truly appreciate the community that he has become a part of here.
The community was always at the forefront of Griffiths’ business.
“I wanted to have a more a laid back approach of being welcoming to keep people coming back and encouraging all levels of athletes,” he said. “You don’t need to buy something to be worth it, you don’t have to be a high-caliber runner to be worth it. We all just enjoy the store for what it is as a community.”