A little help from a friend

Runner’s Edge opens a stunning second store in a legendary Long Island location

By Brian Metzler

If you think the running specialty business isn’t vibrant and exciting, you should check out the new Runner’s Edge store in Huntington, New York.

The stunningly-designed store opened on April 17 in a 2,200-square-foot space formerly occupied by Super Runners Shop. That Long Island location was the last store operated by New York City running retail legend Gary Muhrcke, who closed the business and retired last fall after turning 80. Muhrcke won the original New York City Marathon and once owned several stores across the city before selling most of those to Surefoot in 2012.

Longtime friend and fellow Long Island running retailer Bob Cook saw Muhrcke’s retirement as an ideal opportunity to open a second Runner’s Edge store in that space. Cook, who started his retail career working for Muhrcke in 1975 by driving the Super Runners mobile running store truck, opened the original Runner’s Edge in Farmingdale with his wife, Sue, in 1985.

Cook became a noteworthy figure himself, not because of the many marathons, duathlons and Ironman triathlons he completed, but because the Farmingdale community appreciated the service, coaching and genuine care he and his family fostered. Now 75, he has a pacemaker and no longer runs, but he rides daily — road bikes, mountain bikes and Peloton workouts — and says he pedaled a combined 8,000 miles last year.

Like many stores, Runner’s Edge had to close down for several months last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it survived during its partial re-opening with hand-delivered orders and online sales on its revamped website thanks to help from Fitted retail technology, Cook said.

“The business has been great. We made it through the worst part of Covid and we saw this as a good opportunity,” says Cook, who still works every day in the family business, along with Sue and their daughter, Allie. (Their other daughter, Bridget, lives in North Carolina but helps out whenever she’s back in town.) “What’s kinda funny is that this store gave me a bit of new life. It really psyched me up.”

A good part of his re-energized vibe comes from the new store’s vibrant, modern design. It’s the handiwork of Tracy Ann Roeser, who also has quite a history with Runner’s Edge. When she was a young runner in the nearby town of Merrick, her parents took her to the Farmingdale store to get fitted for her first pair of running shoes.

After success as a middle-distance runner in high school, Roeser (nee Tracy Ann Koch) ran on the cross country team at Savannah College of Art and Design. When she graduated with a BFA in Interior Design and double minor in Graphic Design and Architecture, she started her career at a Long Island interior design firm. After eight months, she found that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, so she quit and took a job at Runner’s Edge and it changed her life. Aside from helping customers, she also helped the store with branding, window displays, social media and content.

“They really took me under their wing,” the 31-year-old Roeser said. “Bob is such a nice guy and really gives back to the community and is very humble. He and his staff set the tone, and I think that’s why Runner’s Edge has been around for almost 40 years. People really want to be around that environment.”

She later became a Saucony tech rep and serviced both the Runner’s Edge Farmingdale store and the Super Runners shop in Huntington. She eventually found her way to Colorado, where she now lives with her husband, Kurt, a 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier, and works full-time as the brand marketing manager for Roll Recovery in Boulder. (Last year, she helped reinvent part of the Roll Recovery office into a workout space for the On Athletic Club.)

When the Cooks decided to take over the Huntington retail space vacated by Super Runners last fall, they immediately called Roeser to ask for her help in redesigning it. Roeser, who two years ago designed the Leadville Race Series shop in Leadville, Colorado, jumped at the chance. She came up with an overall concept and began designing the new shop remotely from Boulder. Often working early in the morning, late at night and on weekends, she designed the shop remotely with constant interaction with the Runner’s Edge team via Zoom calls, emails and text messages.

The end result is a store with a classy, modern interior highlighted by a bright white and matte black color motif and natural wood shelving, benches and features. It’s a blend of Roeser’s background as a runner, her experience working in running stores and her talent as a designer. Photos of the remarkable space are on Roeser’s Instagram page.

“I always try to design something based off of the notion if it was my own, or if I was branding a space for me, what would I want? But so much of that is tied to running,” Roeser said. “I come up with a lot of my design ideas on my morning runs.”

Some of the store’s design features include:

  • A “framed shoelaces” front window display that was designed by Roeser and custom built by her dad, Bill Koch;

  • A matte black shoe wall background with simple shoe shelves that really allow the colorful shoes to have visual “pop” and create a vibrant interior aesthetic;

  • An update of the former Super Runners cash wrap with a custom wood countertop, matte black base and custom Runner’s Edge wood logo sign that Roeser sourced on Etsy;

  • Refurbishment and repainting of the existing mannequins left behind by Super Runner Shop;

  • Five custom shoe try-on benches that were designed and built by Allie’s husband, Kevin;

  • Framed newspaper clippings and photos of Runner’s Edge moments through the years; and

  • A variety of new apparel and accessories fixtures that were built and installed by Roeser, her dad and her sister, Wendy, in the week prior to opening.

“Tracy did a heck of a job designing the store for us,” Cook said. “I think, now, if you want to compete in retail, you have to have a nicely-designed store. And that’s especially true in Huntington, which is an upscale town. We wanted the store to represent that area. That’s what we were really shooting for. We gave Tracy total creativity and what she came up with is amazing.”