Locally owned athletic store FrontRunner, 1344 W. Lane Ave., will mark its 21st anniversary with a June 27-29 grand reopening celebration of the recently expanded shop.

Locally owned athletic store FrontRunner, 1344 W. Lane Ave., will mark its 21st anniversary with a June 27-29 grand reopening celebration of the recently expanded shop.

FrontRunner, which caters to the needs of runners and walkers, recently completed a 1,200-square-foot addition that increased the space to 6,100 square feet.

"We were way too crowded. It was hard to move around in here" before the expansion, said FrontRunner co-founder Richie Cohen-Smith. "At some point, you run out of room to grow."

With its quick access to state Route 315, the Upper Arlington store is an ideal location, Cohen-Smith said.

"We were very fortunate to have picked this location 21 years ago," he said.

When Cohen-Smith and business partner Kevin O'Grady first opened the store, they were the only two employees. The store now has 25 full- and part-time employees, some of whom have been with the store for 10 years or longer and have a combined 800,000 miles of running and walking experience.

"We use the term 'running and walking enthusiasts,'" Cohen-Smith said. "Most (employees) were customers originally."

Numerous athletic footwear chains have sprung up in the past two decades, but what distinguishes FrontRunner is service, said longtime customer Darris Blackford.

"I know about the sport of running, but I don't know the latest technology and the latest buzzwords," said Blackford, who has been patronizing the store for 15 years. "At FrontRunner, they're experts without being arrogant."

The Clintonville resident, who runs marathons with his wife, Star, said FrontRunner is less like a retailer and more like a running club.

"It's more of a place where you can go to get great information and advice," he said, "and they have the tools to help you enjoy the sport."

"I think when people come here they quickly realize we are not a shoe store," O'Grady said. "We sell more than 250 models of shoes, including hard-to-find widths and large sizes, but what sets us apart is our service."

One service FrontRunner offers is letting customers "test drive" shoes to try out their fit.

"With the new addition," Cohen-Smith said, "there's a back door where you can get out on the pavement and test them out."

Events such as the annual Turkey Trot keep customers coming into the store and spread word of mouth, Cohen-Smith said.

"Having events where the race registration and packet pickup is here, that brings more people in the door," he said.

The grand reopening celebration will feature sales and special promotions, including a drawing for a $500 shopping spree at the store. While customers load up on new gear for the season, they are encouraged to bring in their old shoes and event T-shirts to be donated to the United Methodist Thrift Store.

"We are excited about this opportunity to give back to our patrons, but I also think this is the perfect time for new customers to check us out," Cohen-Smith said. "There's a reason we've lasted 21 years."

For more information, visit www.frontrunnercolumbus.com or call (614) 486-0301.