Bob Kennedy talks like a man with an eye on expansion.
The retired Olympic distance runner recently bought a share of the Athletic Annex on the city’s northwest side, and though he said no concrete plans to expand the operation are in place, he certainly didn’t rule out the possibility.
He didn’t even rule out the possibility of going head-to-head with The Runners Forum and Blue Mile, the two dominant specialty running retail stores in this market.
“Just because someone is in a physical location, doesn’t mean there’s not a growth opportunity there,” Kennedy told IBJ. “When I look at a market, I look at not only where the competition is, but how they’re serving the market and what their community involvement is. I do believe this area is ripe for growth.”
The Runners Forum has stores in Carmel, Fishers, Broad Ripple, downtown, Avon and Greenwood. The Blue Mile has stores in Carmel, Fishers, Broad Ripple and Greenwood in addition to two in Louisville, Kentucky.
Kennedy co-founded the Blue Mile—then known as The Running Co.—with a single Broad Ripple store in 2000. He sold his share of that business in 2012.
“My former partners and I just had different visions of where we were going and couldn’t get on the same page,” Kennedy said of his departure from Blue Mile. Denver-based Running Specialty Group acquired BlueMile in 2013.
After leaving Blue Mile, Kennedy didn’t stay out of the retail running business for long.
He acquired a majority interest in San Diego-based Movin Shoes Inc., a chain of three specialty running and walking stores in Southern California in 2013. Kennedy partnered with Olympic marathon silver medalist and San Diego native Meb Keflezighi to buy the 35-year-old chain.
At Movin Shoes, Kennedy has helped re-design two stores, overhaul inventory and increase marketing and community involvement.
Kennedy, who is married to former deputy mayor Melina Kennedy and remains based out of Indianapolis, is currently evaluating the Athletic Annex. Bob Weddle remains the majority shareholder of Athletic Annex, and Thom Burleson also remains as an owner and manager.
The first order of business, Kennedy said, will be to tweak the inventory to draw in a broader audience and to increase the company’s community involvement—including an increased social media presence.
Kennedy promises that Athletic Annex will be more involved in local races, health events and other events and outings throughout central Indiana.
“We’re looking to re-energize the brand,” Kennedy said. “It’s my hope that Athletic Annex will be the pre-eminent running specialty brand in central Indiana. We’re poised to be that, we just need to push a little bit.”
Kennedy said he is pleased with the staff but said they need to “expand how they think about the full customer experience.”