The Performance Running Interview - Jessica Hoepner Explains the Running Specialty Store Experience

Trae and Jessica Hoepner of Performance Running Outfitters

tips4running is excited to have Jessica Hoepner for an interview. Along with her husband Trae, Jessica opened up a running specialty store in 2006 called Performance Running Outfitters. I mention that any runner should really visit a running specialty store to get their shoes because of the great service you will receive. Performance Running Outfitters in Brookfield, WI, is an outstanding example of what a running specialty store should be, and this particular store has won numerous awards for its excellent services.

David Tiefenthaler - Hello Jessica. Before we talk about Performance Running Outfitters, let’s talk about your running background. How did you get introduced to running?

Jessica Hoepner - I ran track my freshman year of high school and found I liked running (at that time it was the ½ mile..) but then my best friend convinced me to join cross country and I have been running ever since. We had a successful team and a great coach and that motivated me to continue running.

DT - Did you run competitively in college?

JH - I ran cross country at UW-Whitewater sophomore thru senior year.

DT - When I was doing my research, it looks like you have run some pretty quick ½ marathons and marathons recently. Are you currently train pretty seriously for any big events?

JH - With coaching and working at the store, I haven’t had time to really focus on any events. I enjoy the camaraderie of coaching and helping others and with working 70 hours a week I really haven’t had the time to train seriously for anything. I have also been dealing with some issues with my hamstrings, so my training has really dwindled since the Lakefront Marathon. Right now I am hoping to get back into shape so I can keep up with the high school girls in the fall! Long term I’ll hope to cut back a little on the hours at the store so I can get my mileage up to 70/week instead of 30-40/week like I have done the past 3 years.

DT - What running accomplishment are you most proud of?

JH - I ran the Green Bay ½ marathon a couple of years ago and it was a cold day. I ran much better than anticipated and had a strong finish… I ended up winning prize money, which was a first for me, so that was a great day!

DT - I know you and your husband Trae are both runners. Did you meet through running?

JH - We met in high school track. We started dating after we both went up to the state track meet my freshman year (his senior year) and have been together ever since.

DT - Who came up with the idea to start up your business, Performance Running Outfitters?

JH - I have always wanted to start a business. Since I was young I wanted a bakery because I love to bake, but I couldn’t convince Trae that it would be practical. One day after work as I was driving home and thinking about my afternoon workout, I thought it would be great to own a running store and help other runners. I told Trae that night and he said it was a great idea. We got planning right away and opened 7 months later.

DT - Are both of you high school running coaches? Where do you coach and how long have you been there?

JH - Trae and I both coach at Brookfield Central High School. Trae coached track at Whitnall High School for 7 years and Brookfield Academy for 3 before moving over to BC this season. He was a sprinter, hurdler and high jumper in high school and has specialized in these events. I have been coaching at BC for the past 3 cross country seasons and before that I coached at Waukesha North for two years.

DT - Now let’s focus on your store, Performance Running Outfitters. By the way, thank you for helping me with my current pair of running shoes. I had never worn Saucony before and I really like how they feel. I also didn’t know I over-pronated a little bit. Is it easy now for you to assess what type of shoe a person needs?

JH - It is. We see so many different feet and running styles; when I evaluate someone, certain shoes just come to mind. We’re also fortunate to work with great doctors and physical therapists, so when someone needs more than a shoe to keep them healthy we have resources to get them additional help.

DT - Why should a runner go to a running specialty store like yours instead of a mall shoe store or a big sporting goods store?

JH - We take the time to assess everyone’s needs and we want to everyone to run pain free! A lot of people swear off running because it hurts their knees or shins, when some of them were just wearing the incorrect shoes. We ask a lot of questions, measure for proper sizing, and evaluate one’s gait on the treadmill. We know the differences between brands and models and are also here if a customer wants advice about their first 5k, marathon, or just trying to get into running.

DT - Can you explain the process a person will go through at your store when they are looking for the right shoe for running?

JH - We first get to know you. How much are you running? Where do you run? What are you training for? What shoes have you worn in the past? What did you like/dislike about them? Do you have any pain or past issues? Then we measure your feet and asses your gait walking. From this information we bring out a shoe as a starting point and then watch you run on the treadmill. We check the width to make sure you’re not overlapping the base of the shoe or that you’re not drowning in it. If the shoe looks good from a support aspect we bring out more models that are similar but have different qualities that you find to be appealing. When we find the best fit and narrow it down to a few styles, we leave it up to you to pick the one with the most comfort for you.

DT - Besides your large running shoe selection, what other gear can people look for at your store?

JH - We carry running and workout apparel, socks, nutrition, injury prevention products, bags, insoles, hydration carriers and other odds and ends that help make running easier and more enjoyable.

DT - I notice that you do group runs starting from your store in Brookfield, WI. How long have these been going on?

JH - We started group runs in the spring last year (2007) and continued through the fall. Once it becomes too dark and icy we put them on hold. They just started up again in March! Right now the fun runs are on Wednesday nights, but we’ll add a Saturday morning run again this year after the track season is over.

DT - How many people join you for a jog, and how long do you run?

JH - We had 8-15 runners last year and it seems there is more interest this year so far. We run 3 or more miles. There is always a 3 mile route planned out and when we get back to the store at 3 miles I ask everyone if they want to go farther. Some do and some don’t but then we just add on a little more for those that want to.

DT - I am going to bring my Cross Country team down as a group during the summer to get fitted for some running shoes. Do you have a lot of bigger groups come down and how do you accommodate them?

JH - We set up a specific date and time and then make sure we have extra staff on hand to give your group the attention that they need. It usually works to have this after practice on a week night because weekends can get hectic. We’re also open to having it when the store isn’t normally open.

DT - I know the economy is down. Has this affected your business in any way?

JH - Because we have only been in business for a little less than 3 years, I’m not sure what business should be like. We are still growing and haven’t seen a huge affect on our shoe sales. I think apparel is selling a little slower than it normally would, but I’m grateful for the business that we’re doing during these tough times. Running is a relatively inexpensive sport. You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment. Just a good pair of socks and shoes.

DT - Are there any big plans or big changes in the future for your business?

JH - Not right now. We’re continuing to add new products and just focusing on keeping our customers happy. We really take pride in our customer service.

DT - That’s it Jessica. Thank you for your time. I certainly hope Performance Running Outfitters continues to be successful. I know I’ll be back in the summer for a new pair of shoes.

JH - Thank you David! I really appreciate the opportunity and think your website will be a great resource for beginning and seasoned runners.

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