Joe Trupp, in a sense, has come full circle.
After struggling through the first run of his life, a four-miler at the age of 34, Trupp began hanging out and asking questions of staff at the Gazelle Sports in Kalamazoo, inadvertently becoming part of the movement community that 11 years later he now helps build and herd.
“The way I felt after that run, gosh, it was incredible and different than anything I had ever felt in my life,” said Trupp, who manages the same Gazelle Sports store in Kalamazoo that helped launch his passion for running and healthy living. “I fell in love with being part of this community of people who help each other, think about each other and inspire each other.
“Gazelle encourages people to grow, whatever that means to them, and I feel good about going to work knowing that I’m helping other people feel good.”
It’s that sense of commitment and camaraderie that has driven Gazelle Sports from its modest beginnings as a running specialty store in 1985 to its center as a five-location, locally owned and operated retailer for athletes of all pursuits.
Gazelle Sports locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Holland, Northville and Birmingham provide a statewide footprint for the retailer, but the stores – more importantly the people who work and shop at them – never lose the reflection of their community. That’s on display through carefully curated gear, sponsored events and run camps and clinics that encourage positive lifestyles.
The stores focus on retail excellence, customer care and being a support system, Trupp said. Employees work to get to know people coming in the stores and strive to understand their goals before guiding them through items that will help them achieve success.
“We want people to be a part of the Gazelle family,” Trupp said. “We want to encourage you to take that first step of a run or that first yoga class, whatever your interest is. We want to meet you where you’re at and be a part of that journey to help you get where you want to go.
“That’s the goal, not to just sell you something, although we obviously hope that will happen. Our people want to learn your story, gain your trust and let you know that we’re on your side. Movement is the mission. Your success is our reward.”
Trupp thinks back to his progress as a runner, which led him from a friend challenging him to run a half marathon to him tackling an ultramarathon in roughly a year. He remembers on that first run it was a group of women involved in the Gazelle Sports training club who taught him the importance of conversational running, that if he couldn’t talk comfortably, he was going too fast.
The message, and the result of listening to experienced runners, delivered for Trupp, who worked at a hair salon located across the street from Gazelle Sports at the time. His persistence and quest for knowledge led the run specialty store to offer him a part-time job, which led to a full-time position, and then five years ago a leadership role.
“That group took me under their wings, and I learned so much,” he said. “If Gazelle hadn’t been there to help me, who knows how (the half marathon) would have turned out. I learned the sky was the limit, and then I got to be a part of a team providing that same thing to others.
“It’s really amazing, I was not a runner, and I was on a different path, but that’s why we say that we believe movement can change your life. It does exactly that. I want to be that person for others who are just starting out, getting back into a routine or are just looking for someone to talk to.”