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Kennedy partners with Olympic runner to buy shoe chain

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Indianapolis businessman and two-time Olympic distance runner Bob Kennedy has acquired a majority interest in San Diego-based Movin Shoes Inc., a chain of three specialty running and walking stores in Southern California.

Kennedy, the co-founder of the BlueMile chain of running stores in Indiana, partnered with Olympic marathon silver medalist and San Diego native Meb Keflezighi to buy the 35-year-old California chain.

Keflezighi will own a minority share, and while co-founder Carl Brandt no longer has a share, he will remain as an employee of the company.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Kennedy’s wife, Melina, a former Indianapolis deputy mayor and mayoral candidate, will be a financial partner in the deal, but will not be involved in day-to-day activities.

Bob and Melina, who will remain based in Indianapolis, in September sold their interest in BlueMile, which they co-founded in 2000.

Bob Kennedy, 42, said he sold his interest in the BlueMile chain to “pursue new challenges.” He didn’t hesitate to jump back into the retail running industry.

“Movin Shoes is a brand that has a lot of equity in San Diego, and Meb’s involvement creates credibility and gives us a great story to tell,” Kennedy said. “The stars aligned on this deal. It’s an opportunity to pursue a new challenge.”

BlueMile, which changed its name in 2010 from The Running Co., started as a single Broad Ripple store. The company opened stores in Fishers in 2004, Carmel in 2006, Greenwood in 2007 and Louisville—where it now has two stores—in 2010. Under Kennedy and co-founder Ashley Johnson, the chain grew to more than 50 employees.

Kennedy has a two-year non-compete agreement with BlueMile, but San Diego is “well beyond the geographical restrictions” of that non-compete agreement, he explained.

Kennedy said he will use similar philosophies he employed at BlueMile to grow Movin Shoes.

“My goal is to maximize the things they do well and improve upon operations using the things [Keflezighi and I] do well,” Kennedy said. “I don’t have any immediate plans to open new stores, but I see great opportunities in that market for future growth.”

As CEO of Movin Shoes, Kennedy will focus on operations, while Keflezighi will focus on marketing and community outreach. This is Keflezighi’s first foray into the retail industry.

Kennedy and his partner will face keen competition in the San Diego market, where Road Runner Sports is located, among other chains. Road Runner is one of the biggest sellers of specialty running shoes in the U.S., with both a brick-and-mortar and online presence.

“There’s a lot of competition, but the running business is still going strong,” Kennedy said. “It’s an exciting time.”

Kennedy said he is working on another business deal, but isn’t yet ready to reveal those plans.

“I hope to have something to announce on that front later this year,” he said.

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