Rochester running store TerraLoco has a mission to serve all members of Rochester, not just elite or competitive runners. The business differentiates itself by offering cutting edge active lifestyle products and items not found in your typical running store. TerraLoco was launched in 2012 by three John Marshall graduates and is currently run by long time Rochester resident Tiffany Piotrowicz. The business has the needs of Rochester in precision focus, both with their products and with their mission to serve the community.
The moment you walk into TerraLoco, you realize it’s not your typical running store. They don’t have big name brands like Nike or Adidas pouring off the shelves. Instead, they stock shoes from companies like Hoka, Newton, and Salomon. The have hiking boots, snow boots, and work shoes. They sell hiking skirts. An entire wall of the store is lined with reflective and safety gear and various hydration bottles and packs. There’s a treadmill right up in the front window. An entire standing rack of active dog gear- like extra-tough collars, portable water bowls, and handless leashes- greets you as you walk in.
The name TerraLoco is short for terrestrial locomotion. The word “running” was intentionally left out of the store name.
“I think automatically anyone that doesn’t consider themselves a runner, which is a lot of people, even people that are runners, automatically you hear that and you think, ‘Oh, that’s a store for elite athletes. That’s for people who run marathons and I’m just thinking of doing my first 5K. So that’s not for me.’ And that’s not the vibe we want to give off,” explained Piotrowicz.
Instead, TerraLoco is there to support anyone in the community, from competitive runners to people who just want to be more active.
The store was originally opened in August 2012 by Rochester natives Brock Quimby, Darrell Thompson, and Jeremy Hensel. Thompson founded Bolder Options Rochester and spent some time playing football with the Green Bay Packers. Quimby ran a highly successful running store in Colorado, but wanted to bring back that knowledge and open his own store in Rochester, where he grew up.
Quimby admits that the beginning stages of the business were rough. He knew that products catering to a healthy lifestyle, and not just a running lifestyle, could do well in Rochester. However, TerraLoco opened in the fall, with winter fast approaching.
“I knew that I would do everything I could to make it work. But I remember days where I had nothing left to do but wait for customers to walk in. …I watched those cars drive by and strategized for hours, days, weeks,” Quimby explained.
Luckily, he had Thompson to lean on and three kids at home that were depending on him. “We came up with a few ideas to drive traffic to the store, incentives for shopping local, and giving [customers] every reason we could think of to keep them coming back,” he said.
From the very beginning, TerraLoco made efforts to differentiate itself from any other running store. It was the very first store in Minnesota to offer video gait analysis and is still the only store in Rochester with this capability. In addition, the store carried active lifestyle products that nobody else was stocking. That was one of the major points that immediately drew in Piotrowicz. She was working at the Running Room when TerraLoco first opened, but stopped into the store one day out of sheer curiosity and to see about this new competition in town.
At the time Piotrowicz first visited, TerraLoco had been open for less than one month. The store had a good shoe selection stocked, but at that point the rest of the space was bare bones. Even though the business was still getting its feet wet, her experience there stayed with Piotrowicz long after leaving the store that day. She couldn’t help imagining how unique it would be to work at a local store and to just have more choices. That thought stuck with her so strongly, Piotrowicz came back to TerraLoco as a full-time sales person in January 2013. She worked her way to an assistant manager position and eventually to store manager.
In May 2015, Quimby offered to sell her TerraLoco. Piotrowicz had always thought it would be fun to run her own store, perhaps something like a women’s specialty running store. But she always envisioned it further off in the future. However, she thought, “I just have to figure out a way to make this happen. I’m never going to get this opportunity again.”
She knew that starting a store from scratch would take a lot of time, effort, and money. “Here at least a lot of it was already set in motion for me,” she explained. TerraLoco already had a strong customer base, business plan, and vision in place that she believed in. So it was time.
Although Piotrowicz had extensive retail experience, she had no prior business training before taking over TerraLoco; she holds a master’s degree in English. After transitioning into the owner position, she quickly appreciated “all these little things that when you walk into a business, you’re not really thinking about.” Things like insurance, workers’ compensation, legal issues, time management, delegation, even computers and credit card processing systems.
One of the biggest challenges she’s learning to tackle is ordering. It’s been a process to understand what items the store needs, how much of an item they should carry, and what they can sell. It can be risky, but that’s part of what drew Piotrowicz to TerraLoco in the first place.
“If we get enough people asking for something, then I can carry it,” she explained. “I think that’s a challenge, but I also think that’s what makes our store unique.”
Besides carrying merchandise to suit Rochester’s specific needs, giving back to the community is a large part of TerraLoco’s business model. “I think without that, we’d just be another business,” Piotrowicz explained.
TerraLoco organizes a Pace Team that participates in local races like the Med City Marathon and Healthy Human Race. They partner with local race companies like Final Stretch and Triton Events and sponsor Rochester races like Unleash the SHE and the Rochesterfest Triathlon.
TerraLoco also holds $5 5Ks every Monday night and donates the funds to local charities. In March, they’ll hold their third annual Ladies’ Night, which includes gift baskets, a dessert bar, wine, and a fashion show. But more importantly, this event serves as a fundraiser for Girls on the Run, an organization that inspires confidence and a healthy lifestyle in young girls through running.
Piotrowicz is especially excited about a new partnership with Heart Strides. This organization provides shoes and athletic clothing to moms of children suffering from critical or chronic illness or with special needs. TerraLoco is building a partnership between Heart Strides and the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester to support these mothers during an immense time of need and help provide them some stress relief through running.
“I think that could be a good opportunity for us and a way for us to give back to the community and do something with a couple of other organizations that I think are doing good in our community as well,” Piotrowicz explained.