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Just when you thought they were all closing, new running store opens in Austin

Pam LeBlanc

Some of the biggest running stores in Austin – RunTex, Luke’s Locker and Hill Country Running Company – have shuttered in the past five years, blaming competition from online sales and an oversaturated market.

But this week, a new running store is opening in downtown Austin.

Ryan and Pam Hess, both fixtures in the local running scene (Pam just won the BCS Marathon in Bryan-College Station last weekend), will officially swing open the doors of The Loop Running Supply Co. at 115 Sandra Muraida Way, Suite 105 B, on Friday.

I dropped by recently to get a peek before opening day.

It’s hard not to notice that the store is just a few doors up from the now-defunct location of Luke’s Locker. It’s a smaller space, but includes some nice amenities – a wall of lockers, for one, that customers can rent. (Hess says customers can even arrange to have their lockers stocked with whatever they need, like energy bars or hydration products.) People who rent lockers can use the store’s showers or pay for a towel service, too.

There’s a wall of colorful running shoes, including Brooks, Asics, New Balance, Saucony, Altra, Mizuno and, coming soon, Nike, and some nice clothing options featuring The Loop’s logo. That logo represents all the growth that happens between the lines of a running track, and sacrifice that happens elseswhere, too.

“At the end of the day (we) were weary of the same old running store,” Pam Hess says. “As the product and culture have evolved, run shops have typically remained the same – but nobody is leaning in on this new wave of running. In fact, we all agree that about a handful of stores worldwide are doing it right. The old school way of thinking is about being a brick and mortar, but to survive in retail there has to be so much more.”

Ryan Hess had worked at the downtown location of RunTex downtown for seven years before that store closed in April 2013. He opened Ready to Run in northwest Austin with partners Scott and Karla Hippensteel that October, in the same space that once housed a RunTex store.

The Loop will put an emphasis on community. It will serve as headquarters for the Gilbert’s Gazells running program. Other running groups are in talks to meet regularly at the shop.

Whether or not you’re part of one of those groups, Hess says all athletes are welcome to stop by during a run for a water break or boost of encouragement.

Store hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information go here.