5 Questions with Matt Thompson of Fleet Feet Roanoke
You may have noticed something new at Fleet Feet Roanoke recently, and it’s not just the new signage along Franklin Road. Matt Thompson became the owner of the 20-year-old Roanoke business in late 2022.
Long time owners Robin and Blaine Lewis decided to retire and handed the reins over to Thompson. His passion for the running community was the primary driver in his desire to switch careers and lead the Fleet Feet Roanoke business – and community – into the future.
Here’s what Matt has to say about the running community, his favorite running spot, and becoming the new owner of a local mainstay.
1. What inspired you to take ownership of Fleet Feet Roanoke?
I’d been a part of Roanoke’s active community for a while with my wife, Tabitha, who was killed by a motorist in February of 2022. The outpouring of support from the entire Roanoke community and the #Miles4Tab Virtual Run/Walk Fundraiser organized by Fleet Feet Roanoke was unexpected. I was lost and needed to find a positive outlet, so I leaned into Roanoke and Fleet Feet. I have a background in marketing and business development, so I joined Robin and Blaine as General Manager with hopes of contributing to those who supported me. My passion met my professional abilities in this new venture and created my new WHY—it was not a replacement for my wife, but a worthy cause to dedicate myself to. Ownership of Fleet Feet Roanoke allows me to engage the communities that mean so much to me. It also allows me to carry on the example set by Robin and Blaine and ensure Fleet Feet remains a pillar of Roanoke for the next generation.
2. What changes should people expect to see from Fleet Feet Roanoke?
If you walk in the store, you probably won’t know anything has changed … YET! We’ve still got the same great team and faces in the store that you already know. They work magic every day, and I’m so proud of them. The changes will be an evolution rather than a revolution. You’ll start to see some new brands and an expanded selection. We’re starting to test new markets with existing brands, such as boots from Hoka and Altra. We’re testing new segments like children shoes and pickleball. In apparel, you’ll now find we carry Lululemon, and we’ll be rotating new, locally inspired custom lines (our custom Roanoke hat from Sprints has been a hit)! Stay tuned for more to come!
3. What do you love about the running community here?
I’d actually prefer to alter the question slightly to “what do I love about the ROANOKE community?” because it’s about more than running. The runners, walkers, and movers are merely a representation of the entire area. Pub runs, training programs, our major events like America’s Toughest Road Races—there is just so much passion for being active, connecting, and creating change together. Above all, it’s the way this community comes out to support each other– whether through the RNUTS series for trail runners, VBR 70.3 Ironman, or a community member that is wrestling with this thing called life. You’ll find a small army of people filling you with positive vibes. I always say we are big enough to matter, small enough to care.
4. What’s your biggest source of running inspiration?
I’m the guy that used to fight tears watching The Biggest Loser. I have a passion for helping folks overcome themselves. Maybe it’s because I challenge myself to overcome my own obstacles, but I can’t get enough of being a part of someone changing from can’t to can. I got serious about running and fitness after volunteering at the Blue Ridge Marathon. My wife was doing the relay, and watching the competitors provoked me to reassess my own mentality. I was embarrassed when I realized my definition of running was completely wrong. Running is not an act, it’s a mindset.
5. What’s your favorite running spot/location/event in this region?
We are so spoiled! We have the Big Run which is aimed at maximizing fun by creating a low-pressure setting. Four on the 4th draws all abilities from children to local elites and celebrates July 4th in addition to the Town of Vinton and friendly competition. I think the Triple Crown is a great way to plan your race season and get a tour of Salem. Then there are the trail opportunities on the Appalachian Trail, Carvins Cove, and Mill Mountain (\yes, there are trails all over Mill Mountain!). We can even explore Botetourt and the Blue Ridge Parkway while completing an IRONMAN 70.3. I could go on and on…
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