PITTSFIELD — Not long ago, a runner from anywhere in Berkshire County would have to travel an hour in either direction to find new equipment or apparel.
That was the niche that Kent and Shiobbean Lemme sought to fill five years ago when they started Berkshire Running Center. Now, in the summer of 2016, BRC is celebrating its fifth anniversary of becoming the centralized hub of running activity in Berkshire County.
Saturday’s event (Aug. 20), which will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the storefront on Summer Street in Pittsfield, will provide active folks from all over the chance to sample goods and receive some mammoth deals on shoes, gear and apparel. Everything from the top-of-the-line racing kicks, to some watches, sunglasses and hydration gear will be discounted.
Altra will be demoing shoes until 2 p.m. and each purchase will enter patrons into a raffle.
“We’re trying to make it into an event as much as a sale,” said Kent. “We’re going to give away a pair of running shoes, a Hydroflask, a couple other things. There’ll be a bunch of free gifts with purchases. We want to make it a big one-day extravaganza with samples and demos.”
Five years ago, Berkshire Running Center began as the Running Center of the Berkshires, a simple bulletin board hosted by Shiobbean inside Berkshire Nautilus, currently their neighbor at 42 Summer Street. When Kent, a Blandford-native, had the desire to open up a run-specialty store and cut out the hour drive to Albany or Northampton, it was the perfect blending opportunity.
There were various pockets of running groups up and down the County, but with things so spread out and not much population density anywhere beyond Pittsfield, it was tough to know what was going on, where and when.
“We felt that there was a really big need for a cohesive force in the running community,” said Kent. “To be the Grand Central Station for running in the Berkshires. If you want to know about what races are coming up, then here is a place you can go to find all that out.”
A year after opening the store, with Shiobbean bearing the majority of in-store responsibilities, things were going well enough for Kent to leave his golf course job and help run Berkshire Running Center full time.
BRC recently held the fourth annual Steel Rail Half Marathon, which it marks as a major turning point for the business. Having a race of that magnitude and popularity as a benchmark in the year was huge. The Steel Rail is a large undertaking, but by taking advantage of the Berkshire Mall, Ashuwillticook Trail and Adams Visitor Center, it is still a very manageable and enjoyable experience.
The Running Center has been able to spread itself into multiple avenues of the business. On top of a retail store that provides top-notch customer service and an immense knowledge of the sport and its equipment, BRC will be the official timer for all County high school cross country races this fall. They have expanded from the Steel Rail and host an abundance of 5Ks and other races, as well as training programs for those races and a learn-to-run program that has helped build the sport in Berkshire County.
“I didn’t realize how important it was until after we started it,” said Lemme of Learn to Run. “There are a lot of people out there who would like to become runners, but don’t because they don’t know how or don’t have the time or don’t want to do it alone, so we started the program and brought in a lot of middle-aged people looking to get into fitness. It is bringing new people to the sport, and new customers to the store.”
A visit to Berkshire Running Center is a personal experience. You will generally be dealing directly with Kent, Shiobbean, or their daughter, all of whom are experienced runners. They are incredibly knowledgeable about the sport and all the products available. Building off outstanding customer service, BRC has become to go-to spot for the entire County’s running needs over the last five years.
For more information visit www.BerkshireRunningCenter.com or check out the event page on Facebook.