San Francisco Running Company: Serving Runners at Every Step

Tanner Johnson
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San Francisco Running Company opened in early 2013. Store founders Brett Rivers and Jorge Maravilla met while running on the local trails themselves, and in part, it’s their running expertise – which they’re willing to dish out with your purchase – that has made the store so popular. Rivers is an ultrarunner and won the Quad-Dipsea (a grueling 28-mile trail race) shortly before opening the store. General manager Maravilla, meanwhile, races professionally for Salomon Running and has a long list of wins on his race resume.

The Matt Davis Trail—arguably the best trail running destination in San Francisco
The Matt Davis Trail—arguably the best trail running destination in San Francisco Miguel Vieira

What's the story behind the founding of San Francisco Running? There are lots of running stores in the area already. What do you hope to do differently?

San Francisco Running Company was started because a large segment of the Bay Area running community did not have a home shop and central hub that provided experience-based advice and carried the products that runners were seeking. Jorge and I basically set out to build the store that we would want to support even if we were not part of the staff. We are building something unique and are continually refining that. We are not trying to replicate any other store that is out there in the country.

Did you create a formal business plan to start the company?

Jorge and I met running on the trails of Marin back in 2008 while training for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile. We have stayed friends ever since. I wrote and developed the business plan for San Francisco Running Company throughout the end of 2011 and most of 2012, and in October 2012 I quit my job to commit full-time to making San Francisco Running Company a reality. I worked in tech in San Francisco and was fortunate to be an early employee at a company that eventually IPO'd in late 2011. I was able to use the earnings from my employee stock options to eventually self-fund the launch of San Francisco Running Company.

Courtesy of San Francisco Running Company

Why call it San Francisco Running Company when the store is in Marin County?

I was actually negotiating a lease in San Francisco and we were going to open our first location there, however I caught wind that the space in Tam Junction was opening up, so we jumped at it. Our spot is literally a dream location, as the things that we love the most about running in the Bay Area are accessible right from our doorstep. I tell people it’s like if you were going to open up a surf shop and a space opened up across from the best surf break in the world – that is what our location is for running.

Courtesy of San Francisco Running Company

The store has gained a big local following. What’s the appeal for local runners?

We were confident that San Francisco Running Company would succeed if we built a community-focused store that excelled in customer service and carried top-notch products. Jorge has the motto that we are "putting the special back in specialty run" and that is definitely true. We are a home for the Bay Area running community and are becoming known around the world for that. It is pretty cool receiving emails and calls from around the world for our gear. As for the future, I can say that we are very early in the greatest adventure run of our lives and we will continue to explore this trail that we are on with curious excitement.

Every store carries hundreds of products. What's your favorite?

Tough question, as I use so many items that we carry, and we have a focus on quality with regards to the products that we choose to bring in. I suppose my favorite item is my SFRC trucker hat. I am not overly sentimental, but this hat carries a lot of personal sentimental value; I still get really excited every time I see someone rocking a SFRC trucker outside of the store.

Courtesy of San Francisco Running Company

What's your favorite run? Favorite local race?

My two favorite runs are the Mt. Tam Hill Climb route up Mt. Tamalpais and running a Double Dipsea – both are epic local runs. For road runs, it would be the Kaiser Half Marathon or the SF Marathon. The Western States 100 is my ultimate favorite race; it runs from Squaw Valley to Auburn.

If you want to connect with San Francisco Running Company, check out the weekly Saturday morning trail runs at 8 a.m. and the Wednesday night workouts at 6 p.m. It’s not uncommon for Olympians or ultrarunning stars like Max King and Sage Canady to come by, and there are almost always post-run goodies. The SFRC Facebook page has any event updates and details.

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