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Like many runners, Tracy Ann Roeser gets a lot of inspiration during her daily morning jaunts out on the trails.
As an interior designer and visual marketing professional in Boulder, Colorado, she’s often thinking about how to make spaces and things more functional, more modern, more invigorating, and, quite frankly, even more cool.
So when she had the opportunity to design a new running store last winter, she jumped at the chance. But this wasn’t just any running store: It was an extension of the Runner’s Edge shop that she’d often frequented when he was a young teen growing up in Merrick, New York, and where she worked after college.
But with COVID-19 precautions still running high last winter, Roeser wasn’t be able visit the space in order to get an initial visual overview. So how did she get started on such a dreamy project 1,800 miles away? She laced up her shoes, went for a run, and let her mind wander, something that’s helped her become one of the brightest, young creative talents in the running industry.
“I think I’m super observant, especially with design and spaces and my mind is always thinking of design solutions, even if it’s not an assigned project,” the 31-year-old Roeser said recently. “I always try to design something based off of the notion if it was my own, or if I was branding a space for me, what would I want? But so much of that is tied to running and also based on my experiences and trends I observe.”
From Running to Design and Back Again
When Tracy Ann Roeser (nee Koch) first got into running as a young girl, her parents took her to the Runner’s Edge store in nearby Farmingdale to get properly fitted for her first pair of running shoes. She would become a successful middle-distance track athlete in high school, and later attend the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she continued running as a member of the school’s cross-country and track teams. In college, she helped the SCAD Bees earn a trip to the 2008 NAIA cross country national championships and served as the team’s captain for three years.
After graduating with a BFA in interior design and double minor in graphic design and architecture in 2011, she landed a job with a high-end residential interior design firm on the North Shore of Long Island. It seemed like a dream gig, the beginning of what she hoped would be a successful career as an interior designer.
Except that she really didn’t like it.
After eight months, she found that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, so she quit. But at 24, she knew she needed to find a new job, so she walked back through the doors of Runner’s Edge, and it changed her life.
“I really liked what I had experienced in the running world, and figured I would just go back to that and figure things out from there,” Roeser said. “The Cooks really took me under their wing and treated me like family. That’s where I really started to learn the running business.”
Owners Bob and Sue Cook welcomed her with open arms and created a role that combined sales, marketing, and a host of other responsibilities. Aside from assisting customers and learning more about the day-to-day business of a running shop, Roeser also helped the store with branding, window displays, social media, event branding, and marketing and advertising content.
Inspired by working in the running business, her own running evolved into training for half marathons and marathons. She and store manager Allie Galante, one of the Cook’s daughters and one of Roeser’s best friends, ran the 2013 New York City Marathon together. Although she eventually moved on from the store to become a tech rep for Saucony, she continued to visit as part of her new role.
“Tracy’s very creative and super talented,” Sue Cook said. “I think she was our biggest loss of all the people who have left Runner’s Edge.”
In 2016, Roeser moved to Colorado and eventually took a job as the brand marketing manager for Roll Recovery, a company that manufactures innovative massage and stretching tools for runners. She wears many hats for the brand, including designing and curating the company’s content for social media, catalogs, e-newsletters, point of sale collateral, trade shows, and other marketing projects, assisting with public relations, and developing and maintaining the brand’s athlete/influencer relationships. (Most recently she designed the creative for a Roll Recovery promotion with three-time U.S. Olympian Emma Coburn.)
Last summer, Roeser and her colleagues had to follow work-from-home orders in accordance with COVID health and safety precautions. That’s about the time company co-founder Jeremy Nelson developed a partnership to support the On Athletics Club (OAC), a newly formed co-ed professional running team based in Boulder, and asked Roeser to oversee the conversion part of the company headquarters into a workout space.
Roeser reinvented a portion of the brand’s headquarters—including the space where her own desk once was—into a small but super-functional gym for the OAC athletes. There are treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights, massage tables, and, of course, a variety of Roll Recovery devices for the team to use. Massage therapists and physical therapists are scheduled as needed for athlete body work and rehab.
In addition to being a key training venue, the athletes, Roll Recovery, and On use it as a place to generate social media content. The relationship between the two groups also led to the creation of a two-part video series about the OAC training camp in Arizona last winter, co-produced by Roeser and colleague Andrew Kitto.
Five OAC athletes have subsequently earned the opportunity to compete in the Tokyo Olympics. Coach Dathan Ritzenhein has credited the space as an inspiring and unifying element for the team.
“It’s really provided us with the right space, in the right area and something that is really special and different than what a lot of other training groups have,” Ritzenhein said. “It’s a great, comfortable space and it’s also become like our home base.”
Meanwhile, last fall, when Gary Muhrcke decided to close his Super Runners shop in Huntington, New York, 10 miles down the road from the original Runners’ Edge shop, the Cooks saw it as a great opportunity to expand their business. Once they decided to take over the vacant space and remodel it, they called Roeser to ask her to redesign it.
Tracy had remained close with the Cook family, so much so that the entire Cook family came out to Boulder in 2019 when Tracy married physical therapist and U.S. Olympic Trials marathoner Kurt Roeser.
She showed them photos of the Leadville Racing Series store she designed and the space she developed for Boulder Underground training group and kept them in the loop with all of her work at Roll Recovery.
“Initially, we didn’t even think about getting a designer to develop the new store,” Sue Cook said. “But then Bob said, ‘Why don’t we get Tracy to design it?’ I jumped in and said, ‘Yes, that’s the best idea you’ve ever had.’ I think if we didn’t have anyone design it, we probably just would have fixed it up. But that wasn’t the right thing to do for that store in that town.”
Because of COVID, she couldn’t visit the space but, with the help of a FaceTime tour and plenty of photos from the Cooks, she came up with an overall concept and began planning the look and vibe of the new shop from Boulder.
Often working early in the morning, late at night, and on weekends, she designed the shop remotely with constant interaction with the Runner’s Edge team via Zoom calls, emails, and text messages. And, of course, plenty of morning runs that fueled her inspiration.
At the store’s grand opening this spring, local runners raved about how the space had been transformed from its 1980s demeanor and décor. Roeser’s creativity resulted in a store with a modern interior highlighted by a bright white and matte black color motif and natural wood shelving, benches, and features. It’s a blend of Roeser’s background as a runner, her experience working in running stores, her understanding of optimal merchandising, and, of course, her thoughtfulness as a designer.
“Tracy did a heck of a job designing the store for us,” Bob Cook said. “I think, now, if you want to compete in retail, you have to have a nicely designed store. And that’s especially true in Huntington, which is an upscale town. We wanted the store to represent that area. That’s what we were really shooting for. We gave Tracy total creativity and what she came up with is amazing.”
Some of the new Runner’s Edge design features include:
- A “framed shoelaces” front window display, designed by Roeser and custom built by her dad, Bill Koch;
- Matte black shoe wall background with simple shelves that allow the colorful shoes to have visual “pop” and create a vibrant interior aesthetic;
- Five custom shoe try-on benches that were designed and built by Allie Galante’s husband, Kevin;
- Framed newspaper clippings and photos of Runner’s Edge moments through the years;
- A variety of new apparel and accessories fixtures that were built and installed by Roeser, her dad and her sister, Wendy, in the week prior to opening;
- Custom wood countertop, matte black base, and custom Runner’s Edge wood logo sign that Roeser sourced on Etsy;
- Refurbishment and repainting of the existing mannequins left behind by the Super Runners Shop
As the new running boom is happening and COVID-19 concerns recede, the new store has gotten off to a great start.
“It was a fun project, one that was really special for me because of the relationship I have with the whole Runner’s Edge crew,” Roeser said. “They’re such good people. Bob and Sue are amazing and they really give back to the community. That’s what the best running shops are all about. They really set a welcoming tone, along with their staff, and I think that’s why Runner’s Edge has been around for almost 40 years. People really want to be around that environment.”