By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
With less than two years in business, Wheat Capitol Running Co. shut down operations Thursday.
Manager Glenn McDaniel said it was time to close because keeping the athletic supply shop open wasn’t sustainable. The customers weren’t there in the numbers needed to hold the niche business afloat.
One of the last customers in the store was Malvina Bullard, who picked up a pair of discounted shoes Wednesday. She commented the customer service at Wheat Capitol Running was an improvement over big-city stores and online shopping.
“Here we get help. That’s what I like,” she said. “I hate to see them quit. I just bought a new pair. I thought I better come get some more.”
The store didn’t just aim for runners. It catered to people with special shoe needs, including those in nursing who have to stand for hours at work. McDaniel also coached people from the “couch to 5k.” That, he said, was a bright spot in the business.
“It was the every-day runner we missed out on. The guy that’s like me, blowing through a shoe every eight weeks, they weren’t coming in,” he said.
There also is a burgeoning triathlon market the store couldn’t snag, even after those items were marked down by 50 percent. McDaniel expanded his triathlon product line this year with help from a $5,000 Downtown Business Grant from Enid Regional Development Authority. It was the second year in a row ERDA gave Wheat Capitol Running the grant.
The boutique store was located inside a building at the corner of Grand and Randolph.
Brent Kisling, executive director of ERDA, commended McDaniel on the boldness of the business. He also believes Enid’s downtown is ripe for niche businesses.
“Just because this one didn’t work out long term doesn’t mean that others wouldn’t,” he said.
Kisling also said the grants paid to Wheat Capitol Running was money well spent.
“Everything we’re involved with is high-risk. We have been very fortunate as an organization that most of the projects we’ve been involved with are still in business today and continuing to grow,” Kisling said. “Even in the case of Wheat Capitol Running Co., I would not consider the investment of ERDA to be any kind of failure, just because of the culture that’s been changed and the events that he brought to downtown. I think we’ve seen a return on investment of that venture several times over.”
There are no strings attached to the downtown grants, and ERDA will continue to make awards through the program this spring.
McDaniel said he will remain in Enid, helping runners and athletes, just like he did with Wheat Capitol Running. He’ll be fine, he said, but he questions whether the city’s consumer base will support a similar business.
“In a couple of years, when people think we’re ready for a running store, who’s going to take that risk?” he said.