The Phillips family opened Wildside Running in Lancaster Village shopping center in Albany in October. Pictured from left are 12-year-old Ben Phillips, 2-year-old Emily Phillips, Katie Phillips, 9-year-old Emily Phillips and Chris Phillips. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — The owners of new Albany business Wildside Running are hoping to not only outfit the area’s runners and walkers but also inspire more residents to get involved in the hobby.
Albany native Chris Phillips developed a passion for running in high school and has nurtured the hobby every since. After years of having to drive out of town to find the shoes and equipment he and others enthusiasts need, he decided to do something about it.
After nearly a decade working in construction, Phillips and his wife, Katie, made the decision last October to open Wildside Running, a retail store devoted to providing runners with the shoes, apparel and other equipment.
“I’m a passionate runner; I love the sport,” said Phillips. “I always have since high school and when I started getting more serious about it I started looking around the city and there was nowhere to buy running shoes or running clothes or nutrition. I asked around and everybody was travelling 75 to 100 miles away and farther to buy shoes and I just didn’t think that was fair for the Albany community.”
Looking to service those needs and also differentiate Wildside Running from other stores that sell athletic shoes and apparel, Phillips made sure he only carried items that were sought after by the running and walking community; things that no one else was providing.
Currently Wildside carries a variety of shoes brands, including Saucony, New Balance, Mizuno, Salomon and Newton. While some other stores do carry those brands, Phillips said Wildside is the only local store that carries certain models specific to running.
“To be quite honest, every shoe on my wall is specific just to my store with the exception of maybe one,” Phillips says. “We currently carry about six to seven brands consistently and will be adding more as the year progresses. We are going to expand some more.”
To help runners find the right shoes, Wildside allows runners to not only try on shoes, but also put them through a test run on the store’s treadmill, something that helps store employees determine the best shoes for them.
“We definitely use the treadmill to let people try out the shoes, but we mainly use it is for gate analysis for people that come into the store and they have no idea what they need,” said Phillips. “They might have pain and they have no idea what’s causing it, so we jump on the treadmill and we get you running for about 25-35 seconds to see where you are striking.”
Phillips said striking is when the foot hits the ground when a person is taking a stride and that people strike with different parts of the foot. By video taping a customer running and determining where they are striking, employees can figure out what shoes might work best for each customer.
“What we’re looking for is pronation of the feet, where you’re striking, in the heel, at the forefoot and that helps us to find the right shoe for you,” said Phillips. “Our main goal is to have you run farther, longer and more comfortable without pain.”
Realizing there is more to running than just the shoes, Wildside also carries a variety of apparel and other miscellaneous items.
“We’re one of the only dealers in South Georgia that has North Face running apparel,” Phillips said. “For women, we carry the Moving Comfort apparel line which is only available here. The Moving Comfort bra line is top notch and the No. 1 seller across the nation and we have that here in our store. Between Thomasville and Columbus we’re the only store.”
While Wildside Running is a specialty retailer, Phillips also wants the store to be a place that promotes running and gets more people involved in running and walking. To that end, the store has supported local runs, and has tried to organize its own running events.
Since opening, the store has organized two larger runs and hopes to organize even more, including after hours neighborhood group runs.
“We try to stay involved in just about every local race,” Phillips said. “We want to be involved with them, some way, some how. We’ve hosted two runs of our own so far and both went off without a glitch. We’re really trying to promote more group runs; trying to offer different options to get people together to socialize and run; that’s our dream.”
Part of fulfilling that dream was locating the store in Lancaster Village, on Lark Park Drive, situated on the edge of the Lake Park neighborhood where Phillips grew up.
“Lake Park, just has an unlimited amount of runner-friendly roads,” said Phillips. “We do group runs after six, when we close the store; we just leave here, turn right and we’re off and going. We don’t have to worry about crazy cars running wild. It’s a great neighborhood for that.”
Phillips said the store also caters to walkers.
Wildside Running is located at 2341 Lake Park Drive and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.