Curt Kinghorn’s long run downtown is coming to an end, on the eve of Spokane’s largest road race.
“I can guarantee you I’m going to cry,” Spokane’s longtime running guru said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Hopefully no one sees me, but I’m going to cry. But I guess every good thing must come to an end at some point.”
Kinghorn said Wednesday that Runners Soul, a specialty shoe, apparel and equipment retailer, will close both its locations this month. First the downtown location will shutter Saturday, followed by the northside location a week later, Kinghorn said.
He opened in a ground-floor retail location on Wall Street in 1999, and its closure will mark the shutdown of the second locally owned sports apparel retailer – Sports Town is the other – after the opening of a Nike outlet store downtown last spring.
The Nike store is in The M retail, mixed-use and apartment space owned by Centennial Properties, a subsdiary of the Cowles Co., which also publishes The Spokesman-Review.
Kinghorn said Wednesday the decision to close was motivated in part by disruptive construction downtown, including an extension of the downtown mall that brought the facade farther east and concealed his storefront from people walking along Main Avenue.
“To me, and maybe it’s just my age and the fact that I’ve been down there so long, I really don’t harbor a grudge,” said Kinghorn. “I’ve had a great life, and I’ve had great times downtown. I have backed it and supported it for years and years, but I’m just not sure that the direction it’s going is the way that it should be, to get it where they want it to be.”
It’s also driven by a desire to end 7-day workweeks, which he’s experienced as a store owner for longer than two decades.
Kinghorn was still serving customers Wednesday afternoon at the Runners Soul location he opened on Division Street in north Spokane in 2011, assisting a family close out their final store credit and helping another customer find a pair of shoes after lengthy physical therapy.
Don Kardong, who sold his downtown shoe store The Human Race to Kinghorn in 1986, said for decades the store owner has been Spokane’s authority on all things running.
“It’s really too bad,” said Kardong, organizer of the annual Bloomsday 12k road race that will be held Sunday. “He’s been the guy for years now.”
The two Runners Soul locations feature years of Bloomsday posters prominently on the walls, along with the jerseys of local high school track and cross country teams and signed pieces of running memorabilia. The north location features a signed poster of the 2012 Riverside High School girl’s cross country team, which placed first in the WIAA Division 1A championships that season.
Following closure of The Human Race store in 1995, Kinghorn went to work at Sports Town as a manager, according to previous reports. In 1999, a Canadian company approached Kardong about opening a branch of his store, Runners Soul, in Spokane, and Kardong directed him to Kinghorn.
“I said, talk to Curt,” Kardong said. “He’s the guy, he’s got this background.”
Kinghorn has volunteered and helped organize several local races and hired local athletes to serve as clerks at his stores. Runners Soul also has sponsored local track and cross country competitions at the collegiate level.
It’ll be helping out those young runners and working with customers that Kinghorn says he’ll miss the most. But he’s not ruling out a part-time job in the future, which he said would ideally put him on the golf course.
“Golfers are like runners, they’re at the golf course because they want to be there, they enjoy being there,” Kinghorn said. “Just like a runner enjoys running and enjoys buying that new pair of shoes.”
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