Giving chain stores run for money

'We're not just selling product, but knowledge of the sport.'

For former professional runner Bob Bischoff, it’s all about the shoes. Specifically running shoes – and the co-owner of Rhode Runner in Providence, along with his wife, Colleen, has been focused since 2001 on helping Ocean State runners and walkers find their correct footing. More

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Giving chain stores run for money

'We're not just selling product, but knowledge of the sport.'

PBN PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
SUCCESSFUL RUN: Bob Bischoff, owner of Rhode Runner in Providence, speaks with Tanya Gorriaran-Goodwin, a customer who participates in running groups that meet at the shop. The store recently moved to North Main Street in Providence.
Posted 8/27/12

For former professional runner Bob Bischoff, it’s all about the shoes. Specifically running shoes – and the co-owner of Rhode Runner in Providence, along with his wife, Colleen, has been focused since 2001 on helping Ocean State runners and walkers find their correct footing.

“I enjoy giving the knowledge that I have and running with people who want to improve,” Bischoff said. “I enjoy keeping them healthy and injury-free.”

The Bischoffs designed and opened Rhode Runner in 2001 as a full-service center for run and walk specialty shoes, apparel and accessories. They offer expert advice on fit and form, and classes on nutrition, lectures from foot specialists and other activities aimed at arming customers with all the necessary information to lead a healthy running lifestyle.

“Everybody has product,” Bischoff said. “We’re not just selling product but knowledge of the sport. I think that’s what separates us.”

Being able to offer that kind of knowledge was hard-earned.

Bob Bischoff grew up in Attleboro, and while at Attleboro High School excelled in running cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

He earned a scholarship to Kent State in Ohio and then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in technology education at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

He became an All American in cross country and the half-mile while in college.

After graduation, he became an Adidas-sponsored runner, competing in cross country at a national level and specializing in 1,500-meter and 800-meter races.

He simultaneously worked at a couple of specialty running stores.

Then he started in the development department at New Balance and was recruited by Brooks Sports, moving to Seattle, and eventually becoming head of development there.

By 2001 Bischoff, now married, felt it was time for another move and another professional change.

“I had saved enough money and gotten to a point in my career where it was worth the risk,” Bischoff said. “I thought, if you’re going to do it [do it now] and if doesn’t work, you can always go back. I was still young enough.”

The couple headed back to the East Coast – where they both had family ties – and opened Rhode Runner after scouting a location on South Main Street in Providence.

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