HALLOWELL — A runner who has completed a handful of marathons, Brian Morin knows what it is to push through the pain and keep going, but sometimes even the most dedicated runner has to know when it’s time to stop.

Morin, who in January opened Granite City Running with his wife, Jacky Morin, and business partner Seth Hasty, on Sunday closed the doors to the shop for good.

“We knew it would be tough starting out, but we didn’t know it would be this tough,” Morin said. “There was no way of knowing we’d get such resistance from the companies. It was shocking.”

Those companies include a host of big-name shoe manufactures, like Asics and even Maine-based New Balance, that refused to work with the independent running store. There were various reasons given, Morin said, such as a fear of saturating the market, but the companies’ primary concerns revolved around working with a start-up business that lacked a long history of success.

Hasty said the store needed one big name brand to attract the attention of others, but couldn’t entice even one big company on board without one already in place.

“It’s like the chicken and egg,” Hasty said.

What Granite City had instead was a number of lesser-known running shoes, such as Sketchers, Newton and Under Armour. They also had Hasty, a veteran runner who believed in the products and was knowledgeable and passionate enough to convince anyone who would listen that his gear was the best.

“I had a 100 conversion rate,” Hasty said.

“He knows the business,” Morin said. “He’s very passionate about it.”

The store’s foundation was laid a year ago while Hasty, of West Gardiner, and Morin, of Waterville, were in Boston for the marathon. Hasty, a 35-year-old with a background in marketing running shoes, said central Maine needed a store dedicated to running. They settled on a sweet spot on Water Street overlooking the river.

Morin, 52, an orthodontist by trade, bought in. He and Jacky Morin, a dentist, agreed to pay the bills. Hasty would do everything else.

“I had blood, sweat and tears in this place, literally,” Hasty said. “It’s a bummer to see it close without even one busy season.”

Trouble began almost right away, Morin said. He hoped the store would open in November, but that timetable got pushed back when company after company refused to let Granite City sell their shoes. The companies that agreed to work with the store had lengthy application forms for credit that Morin said offered unfavorable terms.

“The running shoe industry is kind of strange,” he said. “It’s one of those catch twenty-twos. I don’t think you can make it unless you have a bigger brand, but bigger brands won’t work with you unless you’re established.”

The store finally opened on Jan. 4, just in time for one of the worst winters in recent memory to begin in earnest. It was not a season most people were thinking about new running shoes, but that was just beginning to change, Hasty said. The warmer temperatures, coupled with the recent deadline to sign up for the popular Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, typically brings runners out of hibernation. That was beginning to happen, Hasty said. Sunday, as the store was preparing to close its doors, the store was busy with customers, and just outside on the sidewalk, a number of runners were getting in their miles. Hasty believes the store just needed more time to attract more customers and big-name shoe companies.

“I think if we had a busy season, they would have come knockin’ on our doors,” Hasty said.

Morin said they could no longer wait. He called the decision to close a difficult one, but one that had to be made to ensure his family’s financial stability.

“When bank accounts started decreasing too quickly, we had to re-evaluate,” Morin said. “We were only willing to invest a certain dollar amount.”

Morin said he went into the venture believing it would take a couple of years worth of losses in order to turn a profit, but he believed the store could not be profitable without at least one big-name shoemaker on board. Morin said people still come in at least once a week asking about one big name brand or another and are unwilling to hear Hasty out after he tells them the store does not carry that brand.

“It’s the uncertainty,” Morin said. “If we knew what we had to do to get them, it would be easier to keep the place going. They won’t even tell you that.”

Hasty, who has a 4-year-old son, said he and his wife have had time to digest the decision to close, but still have not settled on a next move. He said he will probably go back to the marketing side of running gear. His experience at the store and what he learned in retail will go with him.

“Seeing the other side of the business is totally different,” Hasty said. “I think it will make me that much better of a brand rep.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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