Before, what is considered the second running boom started in the early 2000’s, “running” was considered taboo but as the the 21st century progressed it’s popularity sky rocketed. Completing the marathon became a bucket list item for many and new runners were hitting the roads by the millions. When Dave Welsh bought the Haddonfield Running Company in 2004 this shift had started but it was uncharted territory for the sport. The “new runners” would have different aspirations with running and with these different aspirations came different needs, wants and tastes. In the late 1990’s when Dave and I were High School runners we’d likely stick out like a sore thumb on the practice field with our tank tops and short shorts. This was not going fly with the new runner and this would, in a way, start a completely new category of fitness shoes, apparel and accessories. Running stores like Dave’s, together with brands that were on this new band wagon, would venture into this new world almost through trial and error and with that the Specialty Running Industry was born.
With this new industry came a whole new world of events, group runs and opportunities to grow the community that were unseen by any industry. The camaraderie ran deep with these new participants and new relationships and even new clubs were born. Where you had serious elite clubs with fast runners before, now you had clubs built around casual running and, well, having fun!
When Dave bought the store he had zero retail experience. He knew it wasn’t going to be easy but he was all in, literally living at the store and fighting tooth and nail to figure out retail all while trying to figure out how to cater to this new clientele. He was forced figured out these things out by trial and error and these errors often came with inventory that you already paid for. In the early days there weren’t many resources that could help with this new direction the industry was going, because, well, it was new. There was no data. No industry leaders to turn to for guidance.
But Dave found a way to make it work and fast forward to today they have 4 stores in total and icon in South Jersey running scene. They host one of the largest 5k Races, The Adrenaline 5K as well as countless other events that are the foundation of their running community. Through all of this Dave continued to improve to become one of the best runners at his age in the country. His schedule was overflowing but that didn’t stop him from starting to pursue another dream of his, to open a bar and restaurant.
After an insane amount of planning and preparation The Mile Bar opened. With 36 local beers on tap and a full menu of classic bar food the The Mile Bar was soon South Jersey’s newest hotspot.
With both businesses humming along, Dave had an idea for a new restaurant and bar, secured a location by buying a building and a liquor license. The plans were set and the funding nearly obtained…
Then the pandemic hit…
We all know how hard this time was for retail and restaurants and Dave had both. He knew this was no time to sit back wait. He knew he had to pivot to stay afloat and he did just that. He established a free delivery service for his retail customers. They had a system where a customer would order a shoe and they would box it up and drive it to their front step. It went like this from 8 am to 8 pm until they could reopen and with this combined with the Payment Protection Program, Dave was able to save his business and didn’t have to let go a single employee.
When restaurants were given the green light for outdoor seating, Dave and his team rose to the occasion and made the best of the space they had in their parking lot. They continue to navigate the pandemic and credit the community they built around their businesses with the main reason for their survival. Dave was blown away by the support he received and even felt people were buying things they didn’t really need to help.
Stay tuned for his new restaurant called Reunion Hall that is in the planning stages and will announce a tentative opening soon.
To learn more about Dave and his businesses please visit their websites below.
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