DARIEN — When Steve Norris decided to join a track team as a teenager, he was wary of long-distance running.
“I figured I’d be a sprinter,” the Norwalk resident said. “What little bit of distance running I did when I was young led me to believe I wasn’t good at running for more than a minute at a time.”
But after some convincing from his parents, he would go on to join the New Canaan High School cross-country team. From there he would grow a love for the sport, and later open a running store called Runner’s Roost, which in November celebrated its 40th anniversary in Darien.
Norris grew up in New Canaan and joined the track team as a high school freshman.
The distance running he did prior to high school initially had turned him away from cross country, but “I practiced the first day with the team and it wasn’t bad at all,” Norris said.
From his freshman year to sophomore year, Norris honed in his natural skill for running.
“The second day I ran I felt faster than the first day. The third day was faster than the second,” he said. “I figured this was a good pattern and wondered how long I could keep it up.”
He said he learned an invaluable lesson through his trials — distance runners will always be able to improve by applying oneself daily to the basics.
After graduating high school, Norris took his
talents to DePauw University in Indiana. A class of 1967 graduate, he chose to run all four years while in college.
“As of a couple years ago I held a four-by-four relay record,” Norris said of his college legacy.
After graduating with a teaching degree in mathematics, Norris said a group of friends came to him with a proposal in 1978 — opening a new running store.
“They talked me into joining them,” he said. “The three of us soon opened the store.”
By 1990, Norris would become the majority owner of the store, and in 2016 the Runner’s Roost relocated from Post Road to its current location at 25 Old Kings Highway North. Over the decades, Norris has seen a change in not only the business, but the customers.
“Running took off in 1978. In those days, we had a lot of customers who were new to running,” Norris said. “Besides advice on a shoe, they were looking for advice on running.”
However, in more recent years customers already have some form of running experience, he said.
The popularity of online shopping has also affected the customer base — shoppers who came from far away have chosen to instead look to online retailers, leading to the core of customers becoming more local, he said.
“We have retained the customers that live close,” Norris said. “This means people living in Darien, Rowayton and New Canaan.”
Despite these changes, Norris said his shoes are priced the same as other retailers, though outdated shoes’ prices may vary.Read Full Article
In addition to being a business owner, Norris has coached Darien High School girls cross country and track team since 1968.
He attributes the continued success of his business to the deep roots he has planted in town.
“A lot of the families in Darien know who I am,” he said, adding one of his employees was a former athlete of his.
Norris and his employees’ experience in track also provides customers an invaluable resource, he said.
The familiarity with Norris also helps.
“I would say a third of our customers has had one kid who has run on Darien’s track team, if not the neighbor has.” Norris said. “That is a huge advantage for us.”