The staff of the Naperville Running Company. Photo: Tim Perroud
The staff of the Naperville Running Company. Photo: Tim Perroud

The NRC was also named the country’s top shop in 2009.

A great running shop is one that correctly fits you into running shoes that match your foot shape and running gait while also oozing empowering, you-can-do-it running passion to all of its customers, from the experienced marathoners to the novices who are just getting started.

But the Naperville Running Company is so much more than that. The stunningly appointed 5,500-square-foot store in Chicago’s western suburbs was named the 2013 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. This year marked the sixth consecutive time Naperville Running Co. made the list of the 50 Best Running Stores in America and the second time it was named the country’s best store.

“It’s a really big deal. To be named among the 50 Best is a big honor and to win again is a testament to the people on our staff and the commitment we have to our customers,” says owner Kris Hartner, who opened the store in 2000 after starting his career working for Reebok and Adidas. “Our goal is provide one-on-one interaction with every customer, give them a comfortable experience and help them get what they want and what they need. It’s not rocket science and there are no secrets. What it takes is really good people working for you, and that’s what we have.””

Located in a bustling western suburb of Chicago, Naperville is a running hotbed. Aside from top-tier high school cross country teams and one of the country’s best NCAA Division III programs, it has a robust community of citizen runners and dozens of local races, including a local marathon that debuted in November.

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At the center of that running buzz is the NRC, a 5,500-square-foot specialty store built on the pillars of excellent customer service, sound advice from experienced runners of all levels and a comfortable, engaging shopping experience. One of the highlights of the brightly lit store is a two-lane inlaid rubber track around the shoe-fitting and accessories area. A second, 3,800-foot NRC store will be opening in the spring.

“We’ve got to be able to handle the full range of the bell curve of our customers,” says Hartner, whose store won Running Store of the Year honors in 2009. “There are a lot of people who aren’t hard-core runners or don’t even consider themselves runners at all who walk in our door looking for shoes and advice. We have to help them and make them feel welcome as much or maybe more as anyone else. That’s why we’re here.”

The three other finalists were Rush Running in Bentonville, Ark., Sole Sports in Tempe, Ariz., and Red Coyote Running & Fitness in Oklahoma City, Okla.

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Ubuntu Award – Marathon Sports, Boston

Never Stop Exploring Award – Charm City Running, Baltimore

Just Do It Award – Cathy Pugsley, Potomac River Running, Washington DC

Canadian Store of the Year – Botique Endurance, Montreal