Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first-ever Gainesville Running Store Royal Rumble! Today’s no-holds-barred battle will determine the strongest of the strong, the toughest of the tough and the most dynamic of the dynamic of Gainesville’s running stores. The stores selected to participate in today’s competition are either entirely running specific or have a running-specific section and are located in Gainesville proper or its closest neighbor, Tioga.
Today’s battle will occur by round, with each round testing a specific category of the running stores, for example, shoe variety, online presence etc. Each round will have one winner and one loser. Any store that loses two rounds is eliminated from the competition. The store left standing after all others are eliminated will be crowned the 2011 Gainesville Running Store Royal Rumble Champion.
Before we begin, let’s meet the contestants:
- Est. 1976 – Gainesville, Fla.
- One location.
- Est. Dec. 6, 2006 – Sarasota, Fla.
- Five locations, all in Florida.
- Est. April, 2008 – Tioga, Fla.
- One location.
- Est. 1987 – Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- 450+ locations in 45 states.
And now, if you’ll please turn your attention to my good friend, Mr. Michael Buffer:
Round 1: Parking
Lloyd Clarke Sports: Located in a small strip mall, LCS has a handful of store-specific (customer only) spots directly in front of the store, including handicap spaces. The number of spaces, in total, is limited, but rarely have I seen the parking lot completely full.
Fit2Run: Sitting in the center of Oaks Mall, Gainesville’s largest and most popular, F2R has hundreds of parking spaces, including handicapped, to offer its customers. Unfortunately, those closest to the mall entrance are almost always taken, and, of course, there is no front-of-store parking here.
Gainesville Running and Walking: Like Lloyd Clarke, GRW resides in a small strip mall with front-of-store parking. GRW, however, offers its customers more parking spaces than LCS but does not have GRW-specific spots.
The Sports Authority: Tucked away in its own authoritative area about a quarter mile west of F2R, SA boasts roughly 100 parking spots, including handicapped, all located within 100 yards of the store’s front entrance. I have yet to see this parking lot even somewhat full.
Round 1 Winner: The Sports Authority (1-0)
Round 1 Loser: Fit2Run (0-1)
Round 2: Location and Accessibility
Lloyd Clarke Sports – 1504 Northwest 13th Street: LCS is directly north, about a mile, of the northeast corner of the UF campus. The strip mall has entrances on both Northwest 13th Street and Northwest 16th Avenue.
Fit2Run – 6233 West Newberry Road: F2R is roughly three miles west and slightly north of UF’s campus. The stretch of Newberry Road between Northwest 55th Street and I-75 is one of the most congested in Gainesville and is one of my least favorite places to drive in the area.
Gainesville Running and Walking – 13005 SW 1st Road #139: You’ll find GRW some five miles directly west of Fit2Run. This means, unfortunately, you’ll have to pass I-75, heading west, to get there, assuming you’re traveling from Gainesville. There are three entrances to the Tioga Town Center, where you’ll find GRW. One is well before GRW, one is seemingly after you’ve passed the center, and the most direct entrance requires a U-turn.
The Sports Authority – 7400 West Newberry Road: In between Fit2Run and Gainesville Running and Walking lies The Sports Authority. You’ll have to pass I-75 and its traffic, but at least you won’t have to drive out to Tioga. There’s a pretty large SA sign at the entrance point, so although the store is tucked back from Newberry Road, it’s hard to miss.
Round 2 Winner: Lloyd Clarke Sports (1-0)
Round 2 Loser: Gainesville Running and Walking (0-1)
The standings after two rounds:
Lloyd Clarke Sports (1-0)
The Sports Authority (1-0)
Gainesville Running and Walking (0-1)
After two rounds, we’ve judged the stores on their parking-space availability and convenience as well as their location in relation to central Gainesville and their overall accessibility.
Competition will be postponed until tomorrow, when we’ll move inside the stores and take a look at store size, product selection and variety, and customer service.
Until then, I leave you with this T-shirt, which I found and photographed at Gainesville Running and Walking. They must be fans of the blog =)