Not many people would consider a run in with a forklift and a broken foot to be a fortunate event in their lives. But for Lisette Schermann of Brainsport in Saskatoon, it set her on a fateful path; one that maybe she hadn’t envisioned for her life early on, but that she’s forever grateful she found.
Brainsport was founded by Brian Michasiw in 1991. It was difficult at first, with a limited supply of technical running shoes, to win over customers just looking for the hot new brand with the celebrity endorsement, but it became clear to Brian that the focus belonged on the customer and not on the shoe. Attention to individual needs and fit saw the store really take off.
It was where Lisette first went looking for a new pair of shoes as someone who decided they’d had enough of the sedentary lifestyle and was looking to get active.
“I went to Brainsport with no idea what I was doing,” Lisette recalls. “But they walked me through it and made sure I got a great pair of shoes that I ended up loving. And I ended up loving running.” Little did she know that it was the first step in the direction of a whole new life.
But first, she had to get around that forklift. Or, not quite. On the very first day on the job in a printing house’s bindery, she was hit. “While I was convalescing from that, I walked past Brainsport and there was a sign in the window looking for new staff. It must have been fate.” So, despite her broken foot, she went in and applied. The rest is history.
“At the time I didn’t know much about the retail world at all,” Lisette says. “But I’m a bit of a gear head so I easily fell in love with the technology of shoes. Most of all I loved working one-on-one with customers and hearing their stories. It just made my day great.”
Before long she had left her old life in publishing behind. “It became early on that my place was in the store,” she says.
Since that fateful day, Lisette has moved up to become General Manager of the store. She still enjoys the daily interaction with the Saskatoon community, and feels that connection is what keeps the community coming back. “It’s not an experience you can recreate in other settings,” she says. “Definitely not on your phone. We actually get down on our knees, check the fit, help you with the laces. It’s a personal touch. We touch your feet!”
And now, since moving to Brainsport’s new bigger, brighter location on 10th Street, they’ve been able to reach out to the wider community through events they host right there in the store. From race package pick-ups, to a rentable multi-purpose room, to run groups that meet three times a week, it’s the store’s goal to get as many people in the area through the door as possible.
Brainsport also puts on two popular races in the city that Lisette and the team look forward to each year. There’s November’s Gingerbread Run, full of family and costumes and holiday cheer, and the Brainsport Brainfreeze in March, which acts as a warm-up (despite its name) for the upcoming race season, while raising funds for the University of Saskatchewan Cross Country Team.
“Our store is a hub for runners to meet other runners, a way for people to feel connected,” Lisette says, proud of her sport and her shop. “It brings together people from all different backgrounds who might not normally have the opportunity to meet. And runners are really nice! If you want to meet a whole bunch of really cool people, running is the way do it.”