303 S Main
Erik Bartlett, owner of Runaround Running & Fitness at 422 S. Main St., is opening a second shoe store in Joplin. Rather than tap into the heavy traffic on Range Line Road or 32nd Street, the new store will remain in the heart of Joplin.
In fact, when Bartlett’s Shoe Co. opens at 303 S. Main in late April or early May, only a short walk will separate the two stores. This was sought on purpose, Bartlett said.
“Nothing beats having a Main Street business,” said Bartlett, who opened the Runaround 11 years ago. It was one of the first new businesses to help jump-start downtown’s revitalization. “I walk and get my coffee every morning, and I have people honking and waiving at me almost daily; there is nothing that beats that feeling. I didn’t want to lose that. If I had gone to 32nd Street or Range Line or 20th Street, I would have lost that, and you just won’t get that same experience and that same feel of having a locally owned business” anywhere else in Joplin.
When Runaround was first established, Bartlett did so after identifying a need in the community that had long been left unattended — a family-owned store selling fitness and running shoes. The store’s opening neatly coincided with a sudden boom in health and fitness, when Joplin residents began embracing running and participating in local marathons.
“The common thing that we kept hearing from our customers was, ‘OK, you’ve fit me for this running shoe, but what do I do about my dress shoes? My work shoes? My every other type of shoe?” Bartlett said.
The new store will carry casual, comfort shoes — Birkenstock, Keen work shoes, Dunham utility boots, Merrell shoes and many other brands.
Joplin, he said, “doesn’t have a locally owned casual family shoe store, and we haven’t had that since Dryer’s closed,” he said. “We really just looked at what we were missing in our community and what was needed, and it fell in line almost perfectly with what we’ve done for the past 11 years.”
There’s an interesting reason behind why Bartlett chose to give his new store a completely different name.
“We noticed that people were afraid to come in here because we had the word ‘run’ in our name,” he said. “They didn’t really know that we carried the other type of comfort (shoes). So that’s where ‘Bartlett’s Shoe Co.’ comes in; we want it to feel like a family comfort shoe store. That’s how we’re describing it.”
While the new store may have a different location and name, no changes are planned for Bartlett’s signature customer service and shoe fittings.
“We’ll still have the same process and the same customer service and how we fit shoes,” he said. “We’re just now doing that at the new location. We carry great products, but you can honestly find our products anywhere. What separates us … from the big-box (stores) or online is our focus on our service.”
At the Runaround, Bartlett tapped into medical expertise to find ways to properly measure a shoe that perfectly fits a person’s foot and body type. There are no “smoke and mirrors” tricks here, he said. Employees go through a painstakingly detailed process to ensure their customers and their shoes fit together as comfortably as possible.
“The shoe is just a small piece of that puzzle, but we want to make sure you have the right puzzle piece and the right tool for the job,” he said.
Another reason Bartlett chose to purchase the 303 S. Main location back in January — the building previously housed an architectural firm, a social security office and a gas company — has to do with the 15 prime parking spaces surrounding the building. Parking, he said, is always at a premium in Joplin’s downtown area.
Lori Haun, director of Downtown Joplin Alliance, said she’s thrilled the Bartlett’s will continue to invest in and be a vital part of the downtown district.
“It takes bold, creative entrepreneurs to not only open a business but to thrive and grow — and they are what make our downtown great,” she said. “The addition of a full service shoe store is particularly fun because when you look at old photos of downtown, there were many such stores.”
In the end, Bartlett said, “we just felt like downtown Joplin provides us with a certain feel or experience that I don’t think we could replicate anywhere else.”