Randy Ashley is accustomed to being a step ahead of the pack. The accomplished distance runner had a successful competitive running career that spanned over two decades including qualifying for two Olympic marathon trials in ‘96 and ‘00.
Now he’s blazing new trail as general manager of the Asheville Running Company in the blossoming River Arts District (RAD).
“I noticed how busy it was at the Wedge and for art strolls,” says Ashley. “I thought someone ought to open a running shop.”
At first, everyone he talked with got cold feet. After all, the RAD may be known for its food, beer and art, but not for its retail shopping. Eventually owners Judi and Dan Foy, whose son was coached by Ashley at the Asheville School, loved his idea and in early September the store opened its doors in the Pink Dog Creative building located at 346 Depot Street, a former warehouse that’s now home to art galleries, two restaurants, and the Asheville Area Arts Council.
While opening a retail shop in what was formerly the city’s most desolate terrain may be chancy, Ashley is acquainted with the challenges. With a partner he opened a running store in Biltmore Park Town Square in 2002, but may have been a few years too early.
Now, with the booming running scene in Asheville and excitement about the revitalization of the RAD, he’s betting the time is right to get a foothold in the shoe business.
In addition to stocking a wide range of top-of-the-line running shoes, accessories and apparel, he also plans on bringing his passion for the sport, knowledge of the area, and skill as a team and personal running coach to the table.
The store hosts weekly group runs that Ashley says are non-competitive, “citizen-type runs” led by store ambassadors, while the footprint and design of their space allows them to host a variety of events, including a series of fitness programs.
“We want folks to feel welcome here and to take advantage of what we have to offer,” says Ashley. “We’re in this for the long-haul.”