Erik Bartlett, owner of Runaround Running & Fitness at 422 S. Main St., opens a second shoe store in Joplin. Rather than taking advantage of 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. It was requested on purpose, Bartlett said.
“Nothing beats having a business on Main Street,” said Bartlett, who opened the Runaround 11 years ago. It was one of the first new businesses to help revitalize downtown. “I walk and have my coffee every morning, and I have people honking their horns and giving me up almost every day; there is nothing that beats this feeling. I didn’t want to lose that. If I had been to 32nd Street or Range Line or 20th Street, I would have lost that, and you just won’t have the same experience and feel of having a local business’ anywhere else in Joplin.
When Runaround was first created, 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 opening coincided perfectly with a sudden health and fitness boom, when the people of Joplin started running and participating in local marathons.
“The common thing we kept hearing from our customers was, ‘OK, you fit me for this running shoe, but what should I do about my dress shoes? My work shoes? My other types of shoes? Bartlett said.
The new store will carry casual and comfortable shoes – Birkenstock, Keen work shoes, Dunham utility boots, Merrell shoes and many other brands.
Joplin, he said, “doesn’t have a local family casual shoe store, and we haven’t had one since Dryer closed,” he said. “We really just looked at what we lacked in our community and what was needed, and it was almost exactly what we have been doing over the past 11 years.”
There’s an interesting reason Bartlett chose to give his new store a completely different name.
“We noticed that people were afraid to come here because we had the word ‘run’ in our name,” he said. “They didn’t really know we were wearing the other type of comfort (shoes). So this is where ‘Bartlett’s Shoe Co.’ Between; we want it to feel like a family comfort shoe store. This is how we describe it.
While the new store may have a different location and name, no changes are planned for customer service and Bartlett’s shoe fitting.
“We’re still going to have the same process and the same customer service and the way we adjust the shoes,” he said. “We are in the process of doing this at the new location. We have great products, but you can honestly find our products anywhere. What separates us… from supermarkets (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 mirror” tricks here, he said. Employees go through a painstakingly detailed process to ensure that their clients and their shoes fit together as comfortably as possible.
“The shoe is just a small piece of this 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 location 303 S. Main in January – the building previously housed an architectural firm, social security office, and gas company – has to do with the 15-berth. Prime parking lot surrounding the building. Parking, he said, is still very expensive in downtown Joplin.
Lori Haun, director of the Downtown Joplin Alliance, said she is thrilled the Bartlett’s continue to invest and be a vital part of the downtown district.
“It takes bold and creative entrepreneurs not only to open a business, but also to prosper and grow – and they are the ones who make our downtown great,” she said. “Adding a full-service shoe store is especially fun because when you look at old photos of downtown, there were a lot of such stores.”
At the end of the day, Bartlett said, “we just felt like downtown Joplin gives us a certain feeling or experience that I don’t think we can replicate elsewhere.”