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In college, Kate King took a gig at running shop Gazelle Sports in Michigan to earn cash while in school. That move sparked a deep passion for the outdoor industry and eventually lead to her opening GO FAR, a new outdoor shop in Boulder, Colorado.
When she took that part-time college job, she had already been an avid runner since middle school. The idea of selling shoes and talking about what she loved was too good to pass up. King kept working at Gazelle Sports after graduation as an assistant to the buyers, where she met principal Ken Sung.
“Ken took me under his wing, and I learned how to merchandise, work with the floor staff, and how to buy,” King says. After two years, she became the women’s apparel and casual footwear buyer and loved every second of it.
A desire for milder temperatures to pursue ultra-running brought King, 31, and her husband to Colorado from Michigan four years ago. King and Sung kept in touch and started talking about making King’s dream of owning her own store a reality. With King’s passion for retail and Sung’s decades of experience, GO FAR was born.
Boulder, being a mecca for anything outdoors and filled with people who embrace “local”, was an obvious choice. “We wanted to be in a place that fostered the same ideals Ken and I had regarding community and active living,” King explains.
The active lifestyle and run store is more than half Smartwool products, but it also has United by Blue, Lole, and other hand-picked local items. Why so much Smartwool? For starters, King believes that the power of wool is highly underrated. “The store conversation actually began as a full Smartwool store idea, but slowly evolved into this collaboration with other vendors. We believe that Smartwool is the perfect brand to carry that touches a variety of segments in the marketplace and allows us to not just cater to the runners, but also to anyone who lives an active lifestyle,” King says.
The dream team
One thing that sets GO FAR apart from other retail stores, is the strength of its partnerships, according to King. “Our partnerships are number one,” she says. “Most traditional stores have hundreds of vendors, but we only have a handful.” King says this allows them to collaborate more closely on how to market and how to do events together.
She says Smartwool has been an amazing partner, helping with everything – marketing, merchandising, and training. “I know I can call or e-mail them anytime. They’re accessible, they understand the business, and they are good people to work with,” King says.
King and Sung also plan to offer pop up shops right inside the store to give locals a chance to sell their outdoor items in a brick-and-mortar on the popular Pearl Street, an offer that doesn’t come along every day.
More of an experience
The issue on every retailer’s mind is how to compete with the online market. King’s answer is to turn a visit to her store into an experience, rather than just a quick shopping trip. “I don’t want people to make it an in-and-out jaunt,” she says. “I want to engage with our customers and motivate people to get outside.”
One thing in the store is certainly engaging customers – the Fitstation, powered by HP, which is only available in 12 stores nationwide. The machine takes a 3D image of customer’s feet, analyzes how they walk and run, then generates shoe recommendations and custom 3D printed insoles by Superfeet.
GO FAR also has an open community area complete with a couch and bar. The plan is to have pop-up coffee and sushi bars from local vendors to encourage customers to stick around, jump on the wi-fi, and enjoy their time in the store.
The goal is to team up with local running groups for events and to host hikes right from the store. King says that being able to connect with the customers is everything. “I want to find out what you’ve been training for and where you’ve gone exploring recently,” she says.
If you’re in Boulder, visit the store at 2005 Pearl Street.