CINCINNATI – After 32 years, Bob Roncker’s Running Spot no longer belongs to Bob Roncker. The popular local chain of running stores was sold to Denver-based Gart Companies.
“It (the sale) was effective this past Friday,” said Running Spot owner Bob Roncker.
In a letter emailed to current and former runners, Roncker detailed the Nov. 1 sale.
Mary Ann and I have had a love affair, one lasting over 32 years, with The Running Spot. This year we decided that the time to sell our stores had arrived. We needed to figuratively pass the baton and enable others to be the next stewards of Bob Roncker’s Running Spot, Roncker wrote.
Roncker and his wife began considering the sale of their stores two years ago. At that time, the couple made inquiries to see who was interested in purchasing the business. They received about 28 responses, Roncker said.
“We were still putting the financials in order, so we never got to the point of discussing a sale with any one party,” he said. “At that point we realized we weren’t ready yet. We felt like we still had things to do.”
In January the Ronckers revisited the idea, contacting about a dozen parties who showed prior interest.
“We began a process to select whoever might be potential owners,” Roncker said.
After reviewing financials and screening potential buyers the Ronckers felt most comfortable with the Running Specialty Group (RSG) , a stategic partnership formed between Gart Capital Partners and The Finish Line in 2012.
“We do feel good with RSG,” Roncker said. “In every respect they have been very fair and above board. They like what the Running Spot does, and they want to keep on doing it. They want to maintain and enhance our products, our services, our training groups, and our other community endeavors.”
Specifically, he noted, customers should not see changes to familiar staff, and running group training sessions that begin in January.
“I guess if we see any changes in the future it may be the ability to have an even larger selection of shoes that we provide,” he said. “They (RSG) do have an online component. If you wanted a pair of shoes we don’t have in stock, we could order it right then and there, and it would be shipped out to you the next day – services that we were not able to do like we want right now.”
For Roncker the sale will not be a retirement either. He will continue to coordinate community outreach and sponsorship for the Running Spot. The store supports the Flying Pig Marathon and is a sponsor of the Greater Cincinnati Girls on the Run fitness program.
“It’s not like anybody is going to come from out of town” to manage the stores, Roncker said.
The Running Spot was Roncker’s second attempt at a store catering to Cincinnati’s running communities. The first attempt was Phidippides that opened in March 1979 and closed shortly thereafter.
I call this period of my life my Harvard MBA equivalent. It cost me about the same, and I figured I learned about as much as I would have had I taken formal classes, Roncker states on the Running Spot’s website.
Two years later he was back at it when the first Running Spot store opened at 2031 Madison Road, just down the street from the current O’Bryonville store, in March of 1981.
Over the years Roncker’s mix of running knowledge, he ran at the University of Cincinnati and coached at the high school level, and business sense led to the opening of four stores in Greater Cincinnati.
A partnership that ended with New Balance shoes led to a second Running Spot opening in Glendale in 2008. A third store was opened in Loveland in August of the same year. Roncker’s fourth store was opened in September 2009 when he purchased Meters & Miles on Monmouth Street near Newport on the Levee.
According to their corporate website, Gart Companies, parent to RSG, started as a family business selling fishing and outdoor gear in 1928 and expanded into a regional chain of over 150 stores in 1992 before diversifying into two divisions, Gart Properties and Gart Capital Partners, the latter of which focuses on specialty retail.
And as far as letting go of the business he created three decades ago?
“I know when we were first sending out the emails early this year telling prospect buyers we were looking to sell, there was a little trepidation,” Roncker said. "It’s been something that’s been very much a part of our life. All things are going to change, and we all have to move on.”