Peaches run the state of Georgia, but who runs the peaches? We give Big Peach Running Co. credit for saturating the running scene. Seven stores strong, ranging from Kennessaw to Midtown to Suwanee, Big Peach capitalizes on making running approachable to all walks of life. And the man behind it all is Mike Cosentino, the founder of the empire. Here, he shares the evolution of Big Peach from its seedling start to its fruitful flourish.
Mike Cosentino’s story began like many other successful entrepreneurial stories do: in the corporate jungle. He worked seven years in marketing at Coca-Cola, traveling the world and working with giant retailers like Kroger, CVS, and Home Depot. Cosentino moved to Atlanta as a cyclist, logging rides in between the corporate lifestyle of traveling and long work weeks. For more than 20 years, he competed in cycling races and IRONMAN triathlons. However, he couldn’t fit in training rides with his travel schedule, so he made the switch to running. (It was much easier to pack a pair of shoes than a bike.) And like many runners, Consentino was bit by the running bug and hasn’t looked back since.
Cosentino himself competed in his first marathon in 1995, and later delved into the ultrarunning community. This year’s Cruel Jewel marked 15 years that he’s raced in ultras.
MC: “I realized the more distance I tacked on, the closer to the front of the pack I finished. I found my success in ultrarunning. While my better ultra-distance days are behind me, running is one of those habits I can’t put away.”
Once Cosentino tapped into the running lifestyle, he realized there was a need in Atlanta. Cosentino and his business partner Steve DeMoss teamed up and in 2004, Big Peach was born. He realized he could combine his recreational passion with his business mindset.
MC: “If I’m going to continue working in retail marketing, I wanted to do something for running. Atlanta was under-retailed in specialty running stores. All of our business planning was when we were running trails, then we’d have to write it up on the computer when we got back. That’s carried over the years, and even now when the store closes, we strap on head lamps and go for a run to brainstorm ideas.”
Big Peach has 100-plus team members that are committed to the company. Sure, there are elite runners that competed in college, but there are also recreational runners who want to grow the pedestrian active lifestyle, or P.A.L. as Cosentino coins it, whether that’s a 5-minute mile or a 16-minute mile. Each Big Peach store hosts weekly group runs, with additional events such as clinics, drills, and skills classes, socials and training runs. Big Peach also teams up with local race directors to host races around Atlanta and the metro area, ranging from beginner 5Ks to full marathons. Runners can find a race happening nearly every weekend.
MC: “What’s been most instrumental in growing Big Peach has been the team. Our team members have made incredible contributions. They are accidental blessings, and all have amazing accountability. We didn’t open more stores just to have more stores, it’s because our team members prompted us to grow. They wanted more opportunities.”
Now, Cosentino splits his time between Atlanta and Blue Ridge, Georgia . He’s scaled back on ultra-running, but often makes it out to Big Peach group runs and races to mingle with the running community.
MC: “For a major metro area, I can’t imagine anywhere this side of the Mississippi River with this much access to trails. We try to spread the word about these trails with our group trail runs, keeping maps in our store.”
In 1999, back when guidebooks were popular and before the glory of the Internet, Cosentino wrote the Atlanta Running Guide. It became a resource to runners and includes a compilation of 50 road and trail runs.
Many of the trails in the book are still the most popular today, and some of Cosentino’s favorites include:
In Blue Ridge, Cosentino finds plenty of trails to log miles for his long run training. “The level of difficulty and abundance of trails in The Chattahoochee National Forest and Cohutta Wilderness provides a solitude that you can’t get in the city.”
A few of his favorites for training:
For Cosentino, opening Big Peach became more than opening a running store. “I believe that people have a responsibility to pass along what other people are doing, and I’m just glad to pass along my part.”