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Sprinting Toward Success

Josh Levinson, owner and Deirdre weadock, store manager at Charm City Run - Arianne Teeple
Josh Levinson, owner and Deirdre weadock, store manager at Charm City Run - Arianne Teeple
Each Thursday evening for the past month, dozens of runners have met along Tide Point’s waterfront to do a few miles with Charm City Run’s newest running group. As the retailer prepares to open its first Baltimore City store next spring at Locust Point’s new shopping and residential project, McHenry Row, it’s already creating a presence.

“When I arrived to the first group run at Tide Point, I was amazed. At least 35 to 45 runners came out,” Baltimore runner David Dutrow shares. “There were instant connections, and I found myself running next to someone I had never met.”

The strong turnout for the Thursday evening runs is a testament to the retailer’s popularity in the Baltimore community. So how has a small specialty shop established such a reputation since it launched 2002?

“The short answer is that I have no idea what I am doing and, as a friend once told me, fake it ‘til you make it,” Charm City Run Owner Josh Levinson quips.

Joking aside, Levinson must be doing something right. In just nine years, Charm City Run has grown from one 2,200-square-foot store to four thriving locations in Annapolis, Bel Air, Timonium and, its newest, in Clarksville. The original flagship in Timonium has almost doubled in size since opening.

Levinson credits a dedicated staff and support from his wife, Kara, with whom he opened Charm City Run.

Kara was the one who pushed the idea of a specialty running store. While living in Texas, the duo was involved with a local running group and store, RunTex. Kara pushed the idea of a replica RunTex in Baltimore, but Levinson avoided the subject. He’d seen many entrepreneurial efforts with mixed results. Ultimately, guidance from RunTex Owner Paul Carozza was enough to push the Levinsons to take that risk.

Armed with a blueprint of how they wanted their family life and business to intertwine, the Levinsons opened Charm City Run in Timonium upon their return to Baltimore. To set themselves apart from the big-box sporting goods stores, they focused on hiring people who care about running and quality customer service.

“When you are here, you are the most important thing in our universe. Everyone gets our best,” Levinson says.

That’s a trait not lost on the stores' customers. Daniel Thompson, an ultramarathon runner and triathlete, is a Charm City Run devotee and often sees its employees out on trail runs or running races.

“One of the coolest things about going to a specialty shop where runners work as opposed to a big-box retailer is that you can trust they know their craft,” Thompson says.

New Charm City Run employees undergo training to learn about shoe fittings and to ask customers about their running history, injuries, and goals. Kim Mitzel, a runner in Baltimore, witnessed the process.

After measuring her foot, Charm City Run employees videotaped her while she ran on a treadmill. They replayed the video so that Mitzel could see her gait.
“It was a really eye opening experience,” she says.

Dianne Rigler, a runner from Owings Mills, adds that the focus isn’t on the cost, but in finding the shoe that will work best for the individual.

And Levinson knows that communities are also cultivated online. He tapped Brian Nasuta, to manage Charm City Run’s social networks on Facebook and Twitter to promote running events, store promotions and share photos.

"Facebook and Twitter allow us to build relationships with our customers," he says.

Customer David Dutrow says he goes to Charm City Run because they are devoted not just to running, but runners themselves.

“Their constant presence at races shows that they are dedicated.”

Deirdre Weadock, the manager of the McHenry Row Charm City Run, says she is in awe of the energy and anticipation surrounding the new store. As Weadock prepares to open the McHenry Row store, she focuses on continuing that customer service experience and growing the running community.

Charm City Run supports local charities Back On My Feet, Team Fight, Team in Training and Run to Remember, an annual race on 9/11 to support the Baltimore Police Foundation and Fire Department.

Levinson summarizes his hope for what Charm City Run accomplishes when discussing the Run to Remember.

“I am very proud of [the Run to Remember],” Levinson says. “I remember thinking after the first year, if Charm City Run does not work out, at least we made a difference.”

Renee Libby Beck is a freelance writer and public relations coordinator for Medifast Inc. The Baltimore Food Examiner for Examiner.com, Renee writes for other blogs and publications. She is a former cross-country track runner who has found her way back to the pavement.

Photos by Arianne Teeple

Josh Levinson, owner and Deirdre Weadock, store manager at Charm City Run

Charm City Run

Josh Levinson, owner at Charm City Run

Deirdre Weadock, store manager at Charm City Run

Footwear at Charm City Run

The storefront of Charm City Run
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