The UK elects its first female prime minister in Margaret Thatcher. Thirty-thousand tune in to the launch of the first 24-hour sports channel when ESPN hits the air. Sony changes how we listen to music when the Walkman hits the shelves in Japan. And in Calgary, a revolution of a different sort is happening as an up-and-coming run shop called The Tech Shop begins to specialize in the technical aspects of the sport – an idea we easily take for granted today.
A lot can happen in forty years, and owner and president Morgan Tudor has been there to see it all. In fact, the very store that he has built into the flagship of his fleet was the first store he interviewed in as a fresh-faced teenager when it was still a Forzani’s Locker Room. “John Forzani still kids me to this today, that I was resplendent in a 3-piece white suit when I walked in,” Morgan says with a laugh.
Which, if you weren’t around yet in 1979, should paint a pretty good picture of the era.
“Back then, technical just meant light and breathable,” Morgan says. But that all changed when American marathon superstar Bill Rodgers built one of the first brands to think about performance when designing sportswear. And as the Tech Shop was establishing itself as one of the premiere specialty run shops in Canada, Bill Rodgers reached out personally to see if they would carry his line north of the border. “And when Bill Rodgers calls, you want to listen,” Morgan says.
The Bill Rodgers singlet, emblazoned with the Tech Shop logo, was the first technical running item the store ever carried. Long forgotten in the age of wicking and Hydralite fabric – until one day when a customer walked into the 4th Street location with an original singlet that he’d found in his closet. “It was very cool to have it just show up on our doorstep after all these years,” Morgan recalls. So much so that they’ve put it up on the wall and will base this summer’s 40th anniversary celebrations around it.
“We produced a very limited run of the original singlet, 40 for 40,” Morgan says. “They’ll be worn by our Tech Shop ambassadors and some key runners, who will be out running all over Alberta.” But you don’t have to be out competing to get in on the action.
“We’ll have a small amount available for sale in our stores,” Morgan assures. “And at the same time, we’ll give a few away. Maybe every 40th customer!”
Keep an eye on Tech Shop’s Facebook and Instagram feeds for details around where you can get yours, as well for details on the celebrations this June. “Forty years is pretty special,” Morgan says. “We just want to celebrate with our customers and the people we’ve done business with for years.”
But as they fondly look back on their storied past, there’s also great anticipation for what’s to come, as the Tech Shop isn’t done growing yet. Construction is near complete on a brand-new high-end running boutique that will specialize in “nothing but the fit,” in a smaller store where customer service isn’t just a perk – it’s the whole package.
“People understand the Tech Shop name stands for great service and running specialty,” Morgan says. “But we’re going to take it a step further now and work on customized fits and really focus on footwear. Where the emphasis at our store right now might be 25-30% apparel, with another 10% on accessories – our new store will be 99% focussed on footwear. We don’t want anybody walking out not being fit perfectly.”
Because going forward, the way Morgan sees it, it’s the brick-and-mortar Run Shops that will continue to drive the industry, despite the overwhelming push to keep shoppers at home behind their computers.
“If anything, the online shopping trend is setting up small specialty stores to be more successful,” Morgan says. “It’s that feeling of being a part of the running community, that feeling of knowing you’re getting the perfect fit, and having someone there who can really describe the technology. These things you’ll never get online.”
It’s the kind of passion that has brought the Tech Shop this far, and that will see them well into the next 40 years. “It’s simple,” Morgan says. “As long as you’re running a great specialty running store, you’ll attract a customer who is looking for that. I’m excited about that.”
What gets you excited about your local Run Shop? Share what keeps you coming back again and again to your favourite run store, to enter to win a complete shoe kit worth $500, including a pair of Ride ISO 2. Enter on Instagram tagging @sauconycanada with the hashtag #MyRunShop for your chance to win!