A new Black Mountain running store with a familiar fit

Tom Flynn
Special to The Black Mountain News

Although its sign remains, The Black Mountain Running Company, formerly owned by Peter Ripmaster, has a new name and a new – yet familiar – owner.

Shaun Pope is an area runner, a former employee of BRMC, and owner of its successor, Vertical Runner Black Mountain. The shop became Vertical Runner on Sept. 1 and, while currently open, it’s slated for a grand reopening in early December. It’s still at 106 W. State St., beneath the iconic ‘1928 Kaltmans’ sign etched above its entrance.

Pope, 27, came to learn the industry at Vertical Runner’s first store in Hudson, Ohio. VR Black Mountain will be the sixth store to bear the group’s name. Four more shops are located in Ohio (Brecksville, Hudson, McDonald/Youngstown and Wooster). The fifth store is in Breckenridge, Colorado.

Pope learned his trade at the Hudson shop while still a student at Kent State University, where he studied zoology. The original Vertical Runner was co-founded by fellow runners and business partners Vince Rucci and Steve Hawthorne. The initials VR of the store’s moniker are derived from Rucci’s initials and evoke the outdoor aesthetic to which the stores ascribe.

Pope acknowledged the job that Ripmaster did in establishing a running store at the locale. “I think if anything it’s a transition from something that was a very brave and courageous way to start a business. The Black Mountain Running Company was successful.

“The owner before me did a wonderful job, and I’ve had some experience due to working in Hudson for Vertical Runner for several years. I brought that experience to the table in Black Mountain, and now I want to share it as part of my own business.”

Vertical Runner co-founder Rucci noted that as part of a family of stores, VR Black Mountain will have access to shared resources and information, as well as expanded product offerings. It will retain the local shop feel that distinguishes it from big box outlets and will be a resource for the running community to gather trail and race information, regardless of buying intentions.

When it comes time to gear up, co-founder Steve Hawthorne said, VR Black Mountain will have a complete lineup of offerings.

“It will have everything you need to do a 5k all the way to a multi-day stage race. You’ll have hydration packs, GU [carbohydrate-energy] packs, nutritional items – including vegan-friendly – and electrolytes,” he said.

It will also offer items for nonrunners. “You’re going to have things that you can use for backpacking or camping, and for area visitors it might be a place where they can pick up something they forget to bring along, like a hydration bottle or sunglasses, as well as things like Power Bars,” he added.

One of the traditions started by Ripmaster that will continue is that of hosting open runs every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. There’s a roughly 4.5-mile course that the local running group known as “The Posse” traverses, looping around Lake Tomahawk before returning to downtown.

The group departs from Vertical Runner and returns to the Lookout Brewing Company on South Ridgeway for a post-run beer. The running group can grow as large as 25-30 runners, and all are welcome, regardless of pace. Runners range in tempo from “walking to sprinting the entire course,” said Pope.

The group is active in the community doing volunteer work and supports races like the Black Mountain Marathon and Mount Mitchell Challenge, as well as cleaning up area trails. It will sometimes run a proposed road race course prior to its staging to give organizers a feel for its strengths and needs for improvement.

Like Hawthorne, Pope said VR Black Mountain won’t be just for runners.

“It will be a universal community, with comfort, enjoyment and style as much of it. It’s for those interested in yoga, CrossFit and people just walking on the street and gazing in windows - the whole nine yards,” he said.

“It really caters to every person, and they can trust we’ll have them step into comfortable shoes.”