Most people arrive at Three Rivers Running Company (3RRC) with intention. As a specialty retailer of shoes, technical apparel and all things running, the store stands alone, apart from shopping malls or other retail stores.
Runners know where to find it, though, as do many others. For 19 years, 3RRC has helped people find the right shoes, outfitted them for all kinds of conditions, pointed them toward resources and traded stories about the pastime they love.
“This isn’t just a regular retail job,” explains 3RRC vice president Lynn Marbach. “It’s a highly skilled customer service position. It’s about passionate people building relationships.”
It isn’t only runners who come to 3RRC. In fact, says company president Brad Altevogt, runners make up less than half the store’s clientele. Everybody needs a good shoe.
“Movement is movement,” says Altevogt. “We do a lot of business with people who run trails, do CrossFit, walk, or just work on their feet all day and want a comfortable shoe. The bottom line is, good running shoes are a lot more comfortable and therefore offer more opportunity to be active.”
Everything in stock at 3RRC has been selected intentionally and tried out by someone on staff; they believe in every shoe they sell. Finding a good shoe is easy, but finding the right shoe for
a customer requires more effort–and that’s what makes 3RRC special.
The process starts by getting to know the customer in order to understand preferences, goals, and how he or she intends to use the shoe. To assist in the process, 3RRC also employs some specialized technology.
“The hallmark of our service is our gait analysis process,” says Marbach. “We use it to help each person find their own ‘glass slipper.’”
This free service is particularly helpful for new customers, as well as anyone who has gone through a life change like pregnancy, surgery or injury. A 3RRC associate measures the customer’s feet, then selects a neutral shoe that allows the foot to move naturally. Then the customer briefly runs or walks on the treadmill or track surface to capture video. A frame-by-frame analysis of that recording helps the 3RRC associate understand the customer’s specific biomechanical needs.
To complement its gait analysis service, 3RRC recently added a three-dimensional foot scanner. This machine helps identify pressure points, areas favored, and other anatomical features. Not only can this aid in shoe selection, but it also can print fully customized insoles.
“Part of our process is to help people find that next level that helps them stay active,” explains Altevogt.
In addition to shoes, 3RRC offers a variety of technical apparel, nutrition solutions, socks, sports bras, safety devices, sunglasses, and even specialized detergent.
“We have tons of niche products,” says Marbach. “These are the things we use ourselves and think other people would really like.”
As an independent retailer without a singular brand relationship, 3RRC has the flexibility to make product decisions based on local needs. If a customer requests something specific, they can bring it to the store; if something isn’t working, they can change it. To make sure they maintain appropriate balance, Altevogt meets quarterly with a coalition of other independent running stores to discuss best practices.
“Our independence is really our strength,” says Altevogt. “It allows us to be really dialed into the wants and needs of our local market, and we’re a lot more nimble than some bigger retailers. At the same time, we’re big enough to take risks on a product.”
People may come to 3RRC for shoes and gear, but it’s often the relationships they build that keep them coming back. And those relationships matter to 3RRC staff just as much as they do to customers.
“Running is really a community,” says Marbach. “We’re passionate about what we do, as well as helping others along the way.”
Through its nearly two decades of existence, 3RRC’s presence has become pervasive throughout the area. Where there is movement, 3RRC is easy to find. For example, Altevogt serves on the board of Fort4Fitness, while Marbach serves on the Fort Wayne Trails board. The company sponsors several races throughout the year, and puts on its own Pink Ribbon Run to support the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer. 3RRC sponsors racing teams at both the community and elite levels, and it maintains relationships with almost every area high school and college. Its Appleseeds Youth Running Program provides a fun, safe environment for elementary and middle school-aged children to develop a fitness lifestyle.
Whether fitting shoes, putting together a training plan, or just sharing stories, building relationships always matters most at Three Rivers Running Company.
Altevogt says simply: “We’re here for you, not the sport.”
Owner(s): President: Brad Altevogt
Address: 4039 N. Clinton St., Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805
Phone: (260) 496-8000
Years in Business: 19; founded in 2004
Products & Services: Three Rivers Running Company offers a wide range of running and walking gear and equipment. Additional services include gait analysis, shoe and orthotic fitting, and team programs. 3RRC’s complete shoe inventory can also be found in their online store at 3riversrunning.com.