Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Ed Griffin smirks as he recalls the pressure of deciding to launch a business in Central New York.
"My in-laws almost flipped when they found out we were quitting our jobs to open up a running store in Syracuse because they said, 'Who is going to come into your store in January when there is six feet of snow?'" Griffin said.
After 13 years in the industry, Griffin is celebrating national recognition. His Fleet Feet Syracuse store is the first shop in the franchise to be named Best Running Store in America by Formula 4 Media. Griffin said his business faced more than 1100 running stores across the country, with secret shoppers visiting the finalists. Community outreach was one of the factors considered in the contest.
"We have great training programs that help get people started," Griffin explained. "More than 1,000 people this year went through a Begin to Run program that we host and that gets more people out, taking care of themselves and leading a better lifestyle."
Griffin also credits a staff of 40 workers for helping him pass the customer service critera, as well as a big local running community.
"For the size of our market, Fleet Feet Syracuse is five times larger than the average running store in America. Syracuse is incredibly blessed with great people. They are very active," Griffin said.
A thank you party was held at the store along Bridge Street in East Syracuse on Saturday, with an "ugly sweater run" to launch the event, followed by a waffle breakfast. Griffin said 200-250 people showed up, the same supporters he credits with proving his in-laws wrong.
"Per capita, Syracuse is probably one of the top 5 running markets in the country for the size of the market," Griffin believes. "More people run here than probably anywhere else in the country."