Dave Zimmer is, to me, the epitome of what run specialty is all about. One kean observer calls Dave a "whirlwind of activity". That is an understatement. Zimmer loves what he does and is constantly trying to find ways to make Fleet Feet Chicago, his staff and his running community better.
Dave's company has four running stores at the current time, and by February 2015, he will have six stores. Dave opened his first store in October 1996. His company now runs twelve races in the Chicago area.
Dave Zimmer (1097), with his son, Sebastian (1096) at the Rudolph Ramble
From his stores, Fleet Feet of Chicago, Dave has learnt that building a store, a staff and a successful business is about building community. Running, for Zimmer, is so much more than a 9 to 5 gig.
I have known Dave for the better part of two decades. I first met him through Jeremy Solomon and Eliot Wineberg at the Chicago Athlete. Dave and his staff were always the team we would see out at major events.
This is not how Dave goes into the office. Zimmer, in crown, is advising a young runner at Pumpkins in the Park race, how the spooky sprints work.
As Dave Zimmer grew his stores and his race business, he added his own touches to the community, from races to this past fall's Q & A with Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi. I would see Dave at the Running Event in Austin each year. We would say hello, spend a few minutes together, but that was really all one got, as Dave and his team were hard at work, speaking to the footwear brands, and fellow running store owners.
John Rogers, the owner of Fleet Feet Maine Running Company, told me at the 2014 Running Event that " Dave has become a great friend. He is also one of the smartest guys in the business." That is a huge compliment coming from Rogers, a long time running footwear executive who parlayed that experience into running store business.
I was able to get Dave Zimmer for twelve minutes and thirty-six seconds. Dave is a wealth of information and a true resource for running in Chicago. Besides the time when I called Dave the wrong name (Chris), our dialogue was fast paced and far ranging. We spoke about human capital, and how important staffing is to a store. "We change lives" is a mantra for Zimmer.
I hope that you enjoy the interview with Dave Zimmer, a man who understands that, for a running store to be successful, one must focus on the community.
Special thanks to Robin Monsky on this interview.