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The Running Spot - How An Avocation Became A Vocation

Welcome to the Running Spot website. I’d like to share with you a bit of the history and development of Bob Roncker’s Running Spot and the New Balance store. Our stores are established on the premise that we want to provide unforgettable service by a knowledgeable and friendly staff. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran, our mandate is to meet your needs. 

Like most guys growing up in my neighborhood, I was attracted to sports. We played football, basketball, and baseball as each season came about. During my sophomore year, our Elder High School basketball coach started up a cross-country team to get the basketball players in shape. That was my introduction to competitive running. Little did I know that this would become my lifelong endeavor. Although I later was good enough to make the varsity basketball squad, I was the caliber of player that the coach put in when we were either 30 points ahead or behind.

I had some high school successes and ended up participating on the track and field and cross-country squads at the University of Cincinnati. Upon graduation I taught and coached at the high school level (Elder). In the back of my mind I had the urge to return to and live in California. That opportunity came when Runner’s World advertised in the fall of 1971 the need for a shipping clerk. As a lark I sent a tape of a speech that I had delivered at a coaches’ clinic, a booklet that I wrote, and a somewhat typical application letter. I got the job.

RW was much different then. They were located in Mountain View, California and had a circulation of 10,000. It catered to a very small running population. Now came my chance to move west with the opportunity to work at one of the few places that incorporated running. My wife Mary Ann and I left teaching positions for our westward journey. 

Out there the running scene was unlike any that I had ever witnessed. The largest local event here was the Thanksgiving Day Race. Perhaps 200 participated in 1971. Each weekend the Bay area had races with 300-400 participants, and even old guys (over 40) and women were running. In the 60s and early 70s a Greater Cincinnati runner was generally defined as, a. male b. a student and c. a competitive racer.

It was at that time in California that I first thought of possibly having a running store, but I dismissed the idea because I did not think there were enough runners to support such an endeavor, even in California. After 18 months, we returned to Cincinnati, now with Neill our young son. I began teaching and coaching at Walnut Hills High School and remained there for six years. During the summers of 1977 and 1978 I co-directed a cross-country camp in Colorado. 

Literally at the base of Pikes Peak, prior to the annual race up and down the mountain, I began to think, once again, of opening a running store. More people were entering the sport during the 1970s. I loved what I was doing at Walnut Hills, but I felt that I was at a crossroads. Ultimately I decided to follow my strongest urges and leave the security of a tenured position for the challenges of retail.

Since I had little money and business experience, I joined with two other partners (individuals that I did not know prior to this time). On paper it seemed like a good combination. One had money, one supposedly had business experience, and I knew running. The Phidippides store opened in March of 1979. I call this period of my life my Harvard MBA equivalent. It cost me about the same and I figured I learned about as much as I would have had I taken formal classes. 

We tanked. I figured that if I was going to go down a second time I would do it on my terms. A less than 1000 square foot Bob Roncker’s Running Spot opened at 2031 Madison Road in March of 1981 just down the street in O’Bryonville from our current location. The name Spot was a little play on words. We wanted people to feel that here was a place (or spot) where they would feel comfortable receiving advice and merchandise that would help them with their chosen sport. 

To fund the startup of our new business, we refinanced our house from a 9% to a 14% mortgage. Those were the days of high interest. Thanks to the support of the local community, we survived and expanded as we moved down the street to our current 1993 location. Initially we occupied only the street level of the building. 

In early 1999, I was approached by the New Balance Shoe Company and invited to open a concept store in the Greater Cincinnati area. New Balance has a greater commitment to variable widths, AA-6E, than any other athletic shoe company. I thought this would be an opportunity to better service the community since many people have a difficult time finding shoes wide or narrow enough.

Concurrently, we were in the process of leasing the entire Madison Road building so instead of going to a second location we decided to have two separate stores, one on top of the other, in one building. My wife and I own both of the stores in O’Bryonville.

Upon entering the building at street level, you are in the New Balance Cincinnati store. Only New Balance or divisions of New Balance (Dunham and Aravon) shoes or apparel are available here. The shoes are in many categories – running, walking, cross training, tennis, hiking, sandals, casual dress, etc. Having a store dedicated to New Balance enables us to have a better selection of widths. The men’s widths come in AA-6E and women’s in AA-4E. 

If you go down to the lower level, you enter the Running Spot. We moved down there in January of 2000. I believe you will find this to be unlike any other running store. We are nationally recognized as one of the top independent running specialty stores in the country. 

The largest and widest selection of running shoes in the tri-state area is available to you. Our brands consist of adidas, Asics, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike, Pearl Izumi, and Saucony. We take pride in this offering. We like to introduce new things. For your competitive needs, our extensive array of spikes, field event shoes and racing flats will enable you to do your best. The depth of apparel, accessories and socks complements our shoes. 

Our multi-purpose running shoe museum occupies the top floor of the building. This is very likely the most extensive private collection of older running shoes in the country. We also devote space to local individuals who have achieved Olympic notoriety. Many groups meet in this space for a variety of seminars and meetings. Any visit to the O’Bryonville location is incomplete without visiting our museum.

Originally we opened a New Balance Glendale store in January of 2002. Situated just west of I-75 near the railroad tracks and the village square in Glendale, this store provides easy access to the residents of the northwestern portion of the county and areas north of the I-275 beltway in Butler and Warren counties and beyond. Here exercise enthusiasts will find their needs met. 

That store was converted to our second Bob Roncker's Running Spot in February of 2008. While retaining the New Balance shoes we were now able to offer a complete selection of shoes from other brands also. 

On August 23, 2008 we opened our third Bob Roncker's Running Spot in Loveland in the historic train station building located on the Loveland Trail. Another running store formerly occupied that location. The owner was looking for a change and approached me about buying his business. That officially occurred on August 14. We are excited about being in this unique setting.

Not for a minute do I regret my decision to leave Walnut Hills High School. People have asked me, “Do I miss not teaching?” The answer is, “No.” Why? My staff and I continue to be educators. The subject matter and environment has changed from what was in the school setting. But, as we continue to learn more about shoes, fitting, training, nutrition, and a host of other topics, we can then share what we know with you. 

I would like to express our gratitude to all of our customers for their support over the years. Many of them have become friends as well as customers. Your confidence in us enables us to give back to the running and walking community. Mary Ann and I feel very fortunate to be able to combine a strong interest (dare I say passion?) into a vocation. Thank you for making it possible.


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