Meet the Owner Series presents…
Brent Francese started his running career at the age of 12, with his first race being the Cooper River Bridge run. At that time, he never thought that running would be the main focus of his career, let alone owning his own independently owned running store. In 2015, Francese and his business partners, Alex Warren, David Meeker and Kimberlie Meeker, opened up Runologie on Hillsborough Street. Runologie is an independent running store, selling men’s and women’s running essentials. Francese and Warren were both former employees of a big box running retailer and wanted something different than a chain store in a strip mall. Francese says that having great partners with the same ideas was the push behind opening Runologie. “We just felt confident in downtown Raleigh,” says Francese, “This is going to be a spot that is going to grow, so let’s be one of the first to start.” He knew his partners had the same vision and if they were going to follow through with the store, they would have to be all in. Francese also mentioned that during the process of starting Runologie, he was naive towards the how hard it was going to be and effort that it was going to take. But with the help of great partners, it worked.
Francese went to NC State University and graduated in 2005 with a degree in architecture. The recession of 2008 pushed him into finding other work, which led to opening Runologie. His architecture background has been helpful in the formatting of the store and the future of the clothing brand.
When asked what makes Raleigh’s local businesses so unique, Francese replied “Raleigh is a big, little city. You still know everybody but, it still feels urban when you are downtown.” He also mentioned that there are so many unique small places to go, which is a contributing factor into making Raleigh so different. Francese told me that not only does he eat downtown, but he does the majority of his business downtown, like getting his haircut or buying a card for a birthday.
Runologie’s typical customer is consists of 28 to 38 year old runners, with a slight majority being women. Francese does see a lot more men than other running shops, which is pretty unusual, but he appreciates it. Runologie partners with many other active/fitness lifestyle organizations, including MADbolic or even hosting Enloe High School’s cross country night.
For a piece of advice for someone who is starting their own business, Francese says, “This is going to sound cliche, but definitely have a vision for what you want. Have four things that you want to achieve before you start.” He stresses that a business owner has to know what they want out of there business in 10-20 years because other things will pop up that will become a priority.
A long term goal for all partners, was creating their own clothing brand through the endeavor of opening a store. This year, Runologie launched their first item of clothes, the Boylan short for men. Francese and his team spent a year working on the design of the pair of shorts. Many prototypes were made and tested by themselves, friends and loyal customers. Two weeks after the launch of the short, they sold out. Francese was overwhelmed with the positive feedback with the shorts and it made him excited to expand their brand. He told me that the short was more of a lifestyle short, rather than having its sole use for running. “One comment that we got was that someone went swimming in our short, which is so cool,” said Francese.
I asked Francese to describe Runologie as a music genre and he said “Oh man, I am a musician too, so that is a hard one for me.” Francese plays the drums for a his own band, and they even played at Brewgaloo (Shop Local Raleigh’s Craft Beer Festival). His final answer was Indy Pop, because that is what the store plays and what the majority of his customers like to listen to.
Francese runs around 30 miles a week, mostly during mid day. I was shocked due to Raleigh’s humid heat, but he leaves right from Runologie and runs through downtown everyday. “That’s kind of the cool part about the shop. The shop is definitely part of the family, life and downtown.” He brings his family, including his 5-year-old twin boys, to the shop occasionally. Francese’s wife teaches at Exploris Middle School, which is right above the shop.
Runologie hosts fitness classes inside their shop, by partnering with other businesses and moving their merchandise out of the way. Every week there is a Thursday night social run, as well as a Sunday morning social run, which brings a core group to the shop. “We also meet people who run 100 miles a week, so they definitely need shoes,” said Francese. Runologie participates in a lot of community outreach and tries to host runs for the community as frequent as they can.
Written by Megan Brown
Shop Local Raleigh Intern
401 Hillsborough St B, Raleigh, NC 27603