Passing the Torch: Fleet Feet Has New Owners

Photo | Mac Kennedy  Robyn and Chris Gault have sold Fleet Feet Sports Gaithersburg to Ilene and Ethan Lish, longtime members of the Fleet Feet running community.

Photo | Mac Kennedy
Robyn and Chris Gault have sold Fleet Feet Sports Gaithersburg to Ilene and Ethan Lish, longtime members of the Fleet Feet running community.

After owning and operating Fleet Feet Sports, one of the Kentlands’ most community-engaged retailers, since May 19, 2005, Robyn and Chris Gault have sold the store. The new owners, Ilene and Ethan Lish of Rockville, took over on Friday, March 23.

Chris said the decision to sell was not easy. “We had a great time with Fleet Feet, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. We met great friends and helped build a great running community. With that said, owning a retail business is hard work—open every day—and after 13 years, we wanted a change. We have worked all our adult lives (over 30 years) and want to explore the world and possibly move to California.”

“We are just looking to slow down and do other things while we still can,” Robyn added.

Chris said they intend to “decompress a little, do a lot of house purging and cleaning, and see the world.”

Robyn was more concise as to what’s next: “Travel, travel, travel,” she said.

Chris listed their accomplishments: “Helping create a great community and welcoming anyone who walked through our door. Seeing our fun run grow from one person to over 100 at times and seeing everyone just having a lot of fun together while doing something positive—walking or running. The same with our running programs.”

“A lot of our participants have been in our programs for years,” he added, and “some have made lifelong friends. Some even got married!”

Robyn expressed pride in “changing so many lives. Now that people know we are leaving, they are coming out of the woodwork, telling us how we’ve changed their lives, how their doctors are thrilled with how they are doing, how not only did we change their lives, but because of that, their kids’ lives have changed, too, because they are now interested in running.”

Her advice to the new owners is to “stay connected to the community.”

Chris elaborated: “Market, market, market! By that I mean getting out of the store and becoming an important part of the community. Have great events, be welcoming to every current and potential customer, and remember it’s not all numbers. You have to have fun with it!”

Chris said he will miss “the crazy group of maniacs that bless us when they supported us and became part of the Fleet Feet family.”

Robyn will miss “hanging out with all the great people we met.” They will not disappear abruptly. “We aren’t going anywhere right away,” she said, “so we won’t be strangers. We will go to fun runs and take some training programs, too, now that we can.”

New owners Ilene and Ethan Lish—she is a civil engineer in the City of Rockville’s Department of Public Works and he was an IT manager at FINRA—have been patrons of Fleet Feet since 2008. They took part in the store’s No Boundaries running program for beginners; later, due to knee problems, Ilene switched to the WalkFit program.

The Lishes purchased the store because, Ilene said, “Ethan and I are so inspired by all the runners in this community and their dedication to wellness. Chris and Robyn Gault did a great job with building the running community, and we plan to continue serving their needs—as well as get more walkers and runners to join us! We are devoted to the Fleet Feet brand because they have the highest quality merchandise in this market.”

There will be innovations as well. A “relatively new product called Fit-Id” will be added to the store’s offerings. “It provides a 3-D scan of your foot and ankle, which aids in getting the best running shoe fit possible for everyone,” Ilene said. And, she said, “We plan to reach out and partner with area podiatrists to inform them about our shoes and inserts that would be good for their patients.”

The Lishes are excited about their new venture. “Fitness is here to stay, as shown by the number of exercise gyms and fitness studios in this area,” Ilene said. “We can’t wait to immerse ourselves in the Kentlands community.”