The Columbus Running Company was named the 2014 Running Store of the Year. Photo: James DeCamp
The Columbus Running Company was named the 2014 Running Store of the Year. Photo: James DeCamp

The Columbus Running Company was named the No. 1 shop out of more than 800 running specialty stores in the U.S.

Ten years after taking on a “crazy bank loan” with a passionate business plan as 24-year-olds, Eric Fruth and Matt DeLeon (along with partner Jim Jurcevich, who came on as an investor in 2005) have grown Columbus Running Company to a thriving four-store operation. They’ve helped out-of-shape beginners and passionate runners, watched high school cross-country runners grow up and spread the joy of running far and wide among the Central Ohio region of 2 million residents.

Because of their passion and commitment to their local communities, the Columbus Running Company has been named the 2014 Running Store of the year by Competitor magazine and running industry trade publication Running Insight for its exemplary customer service, invigorating training programs and group runs, strong credit ratings from ven­dors and community commitment to local races, schools and charity organizations. The announcement was made Dec. 4 at the 50 Best Running Stores in America banquet at The Running Event trade show in Austin Texas.

“We’ve always seen it as trying to create a running culture we’d want to be a part of,” Fruth says. “We believe that a good running shop is the coffee shop of the local running scene. It’s all about being part of the community.”

RELATED: 10 Reasons To Shop At Locally Owned Running Specialty Store

In addition to offering a wide range of products, great service, a welcoming atmosphere and beginner clinics, the stores are all engaged in the local community—through neighborhood walks and fun runs, high school cross-country meets and a free running club that offers group runs year-round.

The CRC also created the Grasshoppers running club for kids in second through sixth grades, developed a charity training program that recently donated $23,000 to Ronald McDonald House and helped send several runners from its store in Dublin (15 miles northwest of Columbus) to the Dublin Marathon in Ireland.

“It’s not just about selling shoes, it’s more about getting people running,” Fruth says. “The running world is a pie. Our thought has always been, let’s bake a bigger pie by growing the sport. If the sport isn’t growing and changing, it’s not thriving.”

The other three finalists for the 2014 Running Store of the Year honor were Running Central in Peoria, Ill., Track Shack in Orlando, Fla., and Fleet Feet Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland.

RELATED: The 50 Best Running Stores In America For 2014

Past Winners

2014 – Columbus Running Company, Columbus, Ohio

2013 – Naperville Running Company, Naperville, Ill.

2012 – Fleet Feet Syracuse, Dewitt, N.Y.

2011 – Shu’s Running, Boise, Idaho 

2010 – Playmakers, Okemos, Mich.

2009 – Naperville Running Company, Naperville, Ill.

2008 – Bob Roncker’s Running Spot, Cincinnati

2007 – 9th Street Active, Durham, N.C.

2006 – Boulder Running Company, Boulder, Colo.

RELATED: Naperville Running Co. Named Top Shop For 2013