Dave Sobolik and Robb Finegan, owners of Fit Right, a running store with locations in Vancouver and Portland, have finalized the sale of their company to Fleet Feet Inc., a franchise retailer with a corporate office in North Carolina.
“The industry itself has seen a major change,” he said. “There isn’t really a shortage of runners, but the distribution of product is excessive compared to when we first started back in 2000. The distribution channels are just so massive now that runners and walkers have so many different avenues where they can choose to spend their dollars.”
Sobolik said both Fit Right locations (2258 NW Raleigh St. in Portland and 16020 SE Mill Plain Blvd., Suite 113, in Vancouver) will remain locally owned and operated by Fleet Feet franchisees Alan Rice and Susan Zepernick.
“We wanted to make sure our customers and staff are taken care of in a proper way,” Sobolik explained. “We knew that Alan and Susan have a very high community focus. That was really important to us in terms of keeping a lot of the events and activities that we established going forward.”
Fit Right is well-known within the running community for putting on events like the Lacamas Lake Half Marathon in Camas and First Thursday Urban Adventure runs in Portland. The company is also a repeat sponsor of the Vancouver Marathon, the Fort Vancouver Run and several others.
Sobolik indicated that Rice and Zepernick will change the Fit Right name to Fleet Feet, but that transition will be a slow one.
“There’s no specific time frame,” he said. “They (Rice and Zepernick) want to come in, get their bearings and carry on what we’ve established. Most likely it will be an 18- to 36-month transition to change the name.”
Looking for tenants
In 2012, Fit Right was poised to open a second location in Clark County after Sobolik purchased the former Spanky’s building in downtown Vancouver. With those plans having fizzled out and the company being sold, Sobolik said he is now actively looking for other tenants.
“We’re looking,” he said. “I think there is a lot of opportunity in Southwest Washington to not only start and grow a business, but also for existing businesses, I think this is an attractive area for them to look at and possibly move to.”
The Southwest Washington experience
When asked to reflect on his experience as a business owner in Southwest Washington, Sobolik said the thing he is going to miss the most is the sense of community.
“Southwest Washington has been very supportive,” he said. “It is a community that is really working hard to better the sense of community that we have here. It is working to attract new and unique businesses as well as larger businesses, keeping that balance. The community is fantastic, the demographic is great and the schools are great.”
Looking to the future, Sobolik said he is exploring new opportunities but has no plans to leave the area.
“There are a lot of things I’m considering right now that range from outside of the [running] industry in commercial real estate to working with a local brewery that’s starting up. I’m also considering staying in the industry to help build the sport of running, but maybe on the brand side instead of the retail side. I’m very excited to use my skill set and to explore future endeavors.”