Business

The Ground Floor: Running partners in Cedar Rapids

New store follows family tradition, in a new location

Iowa Running Company recently opened in the New Bohemia district of southeast Cedar Rapids, photographed on Thursday, April 27, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Running Company recently opened in the New Bohemia district of southeast Cedar Rapids, photographed on Thursday, April 27, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Jim Dwyer and Clifton Smith hadn’t known each other long — just a few months — when they decided to become business partners.

When Running Wild, the Cedar Rapids-run specialty store where they both worked, closed its doors just before Thanksgiving last November, Dwyer and Smith got together to start their own athletic shoe store. They opened Iowa Running Company in March.

“We basically approached each other at the same time,” Smith recalled about the partnership’s inception.

“We meshed well,” added Dwyer. “We had a similar vision as to how to operate a small business.”

The two men first got to know each other last year when Dwyer hired Smith to work Running Wild, a running store owned by Dwyer’s parents. Dwyer had worked at Running Wild since it opened in 1999, while Smith had worked for a similar business in Denver before moving back to his home state of Iowa.

With a lot in common, the two men soon became friends.

“There was a vibe that drew us together,” Dwyer said. “We both love the sport.”

When Dwyer’s parents retired last fall and closed the Running Wild stores, they gave him “right of first refusal” to take over their business.

“But I didn’t like the location,” he said.

Instead, Dwyer and Smith set their sights on the NewBo neighborhood.

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“The retail game has changed dramatically since 1999,” Dwyer said. “We needed to be in a dynamic and active part of town with a health-conscious and shop-local mentality. The NewBo location checked off all the boxes.”

They signed a lease on a retail space in late December and opened Iowa Running Company just 97 days after Running Wild closed.

“We went at a breakneck pace,” Dwyer said. “It felt like a marathon.”

With their biggest competition coming from online retailers, Dwyer and Smith said their store focuses on the customer experience.

“We sell a commodity that’s readily available anywhere,” Dwyer noted. “But we have an exceptionally knowledgeable staff that will take the time to find out where the customer is coming from — whether they’re a runner or a walker, what their mileage is — and help them reach their fitness goals by directing them to the right pair of shoes.”

“The other dynamic is people can come in and feel comfortable here,” Smith said, noting a lounge area in back of the store where customers can relax and enjoy complimentary coffee or beer while shopping or after a run. “It’s a different feeling than walking into a department store and asking for a pair of shoes and then being left on your own.”

In addition to running and fitness footwear, Iowa Running Company offers apparel, accessories, and nutrition products.

AT A GLANCE

Owners: Jim Dwyer and Clifton Smith

Business: Iowa Running Company

Address: 1000 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids

Telephone: (319) 364-0641

Website: www.iowarun.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.