The Sneaker Shop is up and running

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File photo / The Sneaker Shop is up and running on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City. File photo / The Sneaker Shop is up and running on Asbury Avenue in Ocean City.

OCEAN CITY —The colorfully decorated front window of the recently reopened The Sneaker Shop features two runners on the boardwalk, with replicated boards and railings. An accompanying sign heralds the good news: “We are up and running!”

In early October, “Sneaker Girls” Janet Schlitz and Maureen Kelly celebrated their 10th anniversary in business. A few weeks later, Hurricane Sandy dumped a couple feet of water in the store at 846 Asbury Ave., setting them back not quite a decade, but pretty darn close.

Last week, the thriving hub of all things running, from sneakers and socks to shorts, tops and sunglasses, was officially open, and they couldn’t be happier.

“We had a significant loss of business, but it’s really nice to be back,” Schlitz said.

However, the shop is not quite complete. The owners are awaiting shelving and accessories, and some furnishings to make the store more comfortable. 

Most of the inventory was up high enough that it was not ruined, but they lost 60 pairs of shoes. The entire store had to be gutted, and the two started over fresh. Still, they consider themselves fortunate, they said.

“It could have been so much worse,” Schlitz said. “We had to buy a lot of new things, but we’re here, we’re open.”

Throughout the afternoon on Friday, Dec. 7, customers wandered in, some looking for sneakers that had been ordered, others for socks or laces.

“We stayed in touch, we were able to help people even while we were closed,” Schlitz said. “Fortunately, people kept calling.”

The duo had a lot of help from friends, who arrived from far and wide to help them rip out the soggy, soiled carpet and walls, then clean, repair, replace and reopen.

Greg and Marilyn Merritt, parents of local tri-athlete Carrie Merritt, a kindergarten teacher at the Ocean City Primary School, designed the front window.  They also helped with the paint selection and flooring for the interior, something Schlitz and Kelly say they are not qualified to do.

“I do numbers, I don’t do colors,” Kelly said.

Redone in Providence blue and dill pickle, the new shop is bright, vibrant and more exciting than the one that flooded six weeks ago, but the customer service remains the same. The Sneaker Shop specializes in the most important intangible: advice.

They understand how and why sneakers should fit a runner’s foot because they are runners. They’ve dealt with the maladies: plantar fasciitis, Morton’s neuroma, blisters, ingrown toenails and various podiatric misalignments. They have a direct pipeline to local podiatrists and physical therapists.

“We offer personalized service,” Kelly said. “We help clients figure out which sneakers would be best for them.”

They said Hurricane Sandy was “scary.”

“I wanted to stay, but a police officer friend talked us out of it,” Schlitz said. “At least our building is structurally sound.”

Schlitz said they kept track of what was happening on Asbury Avenue through pictures on Facebook. They knew it was bad.

“The water was up halfway on the parking meters,” she said. “We hoped since our store sits up a little, it might be OK.”

At first, it looked easily salvageable, but they were wrong.

“I didn’t think it would be so bad, but once you start tearing things apart, you realize what a mess you have on your hands,” Schlitz said.

Fortunately, they lost no apparel, she said.

“After the economy tanked, manufacturers cut back,” she said. “If we lost the apparel, we wouldn’t be able to get more, for winter.”

Schlitz and Kelly worked to get the store prepared for the storm before the evacuation order was issued.

“Our last day of business before the storm was Trick or Treat,” Schlitz said. “Maureen was busy giving candy away to the children, in costumes, and a friend and I were busy boarding up the windows and getting sand bags ready. It was a bit ironic.”

The two are hoping for a stellar summer to recover lost revenue.

“I hope we can recoup what we lost in the next year,” Schlitz said. “We can if we have a good summer. There are people who are in way worse shape than us. That’s what we keep thinking about. We could be Long Beach Island.”

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