The Treadmill’s owner, Chris Cleary, was selling Newtons long before he was selling Newtons.
When Chris Cleary moved with his wife, Janice, from Toronto, Canada to Carmel, California to be near his sister and her husband, he was very active in the running and triathlon world, but working in construction. Still, motivating and inspiring others was just something he liked to do, almost like a hobby. “I was running and doing triathlon and leading an active lifestyle. In construction, my goal was always to get the guys who weren’t health conscious to think about it.” And then, the Treadmill running store came up for sale and his life changed.
“One of my coworkers said, ‘I saw The Treadmill is for sale. Then my sister called a couple of days later and said, ‘I saw The Treadmill is for sale.’” The seed was planted. The owners were retiring after 29 years in the business. Cleary and his wife had just had their first child (they now have two), and he debated, “Should I do something crazy, or do something smart?” He and his wife decided to go for it, they bought the store in April 2012, and they’ve never looked back.
One of the first decisions Cleary made as the new owner of The Treadmill was to bring Newton running shoes into the store. “I was a Newton customer long before we bought the store,” he explains. Several years prior, Cleary and his wife had postponed their honeymoon until after they ran the Big Sur Marathon, whose course runs 200 yards from the Treadmill’s front door. Cleary had been running a lot of ultra races and he ran the Big Sur race in another popular shoe. “I was in so much pain when I finished, I couldn’t walk for days. It ruined our honeymoon, because neither of us could walk.” As Cleary got more into racing, he started to read more about form and stumbled upon Newton.
“I started reading about Newton and then I looked up the local store that sold them, and started running in them. I was 2-3 weeks in when I had that ‘Aha’ moment that I should have been running like this forever. That’s how you create a cult following, people have that ‘Aha’ moment.” As a result of his enthusiasm for Newtons, Cleary adds, “I was selling Newtons, long before I was selling Newtons.”
When Cleary bought the store, Newton’s weren’t in the store. Cleary jumped on bringing them in because the “local” store where he had been buying them was actually an hour-and-a-half drive up north. But selling them, he admits, was a bit of a difficult transition at first. “We have an older demographic—a lot of walkers. We only have a few runners on our staff. We have a lot of people who do adventure travel. We had to do a lot of teaching as to how this shoe makes a difference in your running.” But the education process is partly what attracted Cleary to Newton shoes in the first place. And the concept of teaching form, helping people understand how they are moving and offering tips to make the running experience more enjoyable for his customers is key to Cleary’s overall business plan. “We have to stand out. We want people to like us and support us and think there is nowhere else to go because we know exactly what is going on.”
The education focus is working for him. “We went from selling five pairs a month, to 35 to more than 50 pairs a month.” This past year, the store started a tri-club as well. Cleary himself, is now a Level 1 Newton Natural Running Instructor.
Realizing the road to success is going to be bumpy, Cleary’s vision is clear, “I want to create a store that I would want to go to.” And although everyone on his staff saw Newton as Cleary’s shoe, he says it’s not his efforts alone that have made the shoe a success in the store. “Newton has been 100-percent supportive. They have come and done clinics for us. Ian Adamson spoke on our behalf. They stand behind us with the 30-day guarantee. It’s nice to have a company that is really aware of where they’re at in the industry and doing the best for everyone trying to sell the shoe.”