Saturday, September 16, 2017

Updated: Memories of Steve Hoag

Steve Hoag wasn't born with the physical gifts that would have tempted him to seek a career in  basketball or hockey.  Lucky for us it was  among distance runners where Steve was a giant. He was a Big Ten champion on the track for the Gophers.  On the roads a runner up in the Boston Marathon.
Steve Hoag(Left) and Ron Daws(right) on a training run

He touched the lives of most runners, however, as a running store trail blazer.  Back in the 1970s Garry Bjorklund and John Naslund started the running store movement in the Twin Cities with a small shop in Dinkytown called Body 'n Sole.  That morphed into GBS Sports(Garry Bjorklund Sports) with Steve as a partner.  That shop was located near Macalester College on Grand Avenue in St. Paul.

Other running entreprenuers joined Hoag and the franchise and kept it going.  Phil Jenni, today the Executive Director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, was involved, as well as Chris Fuller. Hoag would move on to a store of his own in Edina, Marathon Sports, now owned by John Long as Fleet Feet Marathon Sports.  Hoag was the engine behind the proliferation of running stores in the Twin Cities area.

Hoag's efforts paved the way for Perry Bach and the Run'n Fun franchise that blazed the trail for running entrepreneurs who now operate their own stores in the Twin Cities.  After selling Marathon Sports to John Long, Hoag "retired."  That retirement was mostly full of coaching high school runners at a number of schools.  His last stop being as an assistant coach for Minnetonka. It was his way of giving back to the running community and for him to stay in touch with the sport he loved.

Star Tribune obit HERE.
2007 Running Minnesota Interview HERE
University of Minnesota tribute to Steve Hoag HERE
Paul Raether's tribute to Steve and Ron Daws HERE
For more "history" read the comments attached to this posting

The family wishes to thank the caregivers and staff at University Of Minnesota Hospital and the two angels, Sue Simonet and Ali Kmieciak, for their loving hospice care. In lieu of flowers the family encourages donations to the Steve Hoag Memorial CC/Track Scholarship Fund. Service 11AM, October 4, 2017 at Zion Lutheran Church, Anoka MN. Visitation one hour before service.


Coach Moorhead said...

Steve opend the first of two Running World stores in he late 70's. Not sure which came first Running World or GBS. The 1st Running World was at 28th & Hennepin across from West High School, the other on 70th & France across from the Galleria As one of Steve's managers we would often work with John Naslund and his store, to ensure that a runner got the shoe they needed. Early 80's Steve left Running World and would later open Marathon Sports on West 50th in Mpls. As one of Steve's early employees I certainly benefited from Steve sharing all that was running. Steve was a true gentleman and a joy to work for. Kevin Moorhead

jdf said...

Kevin, Thanks for that info.

Unknown said...

Steve and Mark Daniels opened Running World in 1976 on Grand Avenue. It started with an emphasis on resoling! I joined Mark and Steve in 1977 and we opened two new stores - on 28th and Hennepin and 70th and France. Meanwhile Naslund and Garry Bjorklund split up and BJ and Brad Kingery opened Garry Bjorklund Sports with a flagship DT Minneapolis store. In 1979 Steve and I merged with BJ and Brad. Daniels kept the Hennepin and Edina stores. We opened a store in stadium village at the University (Dick Beardsley worked there for two years) and when Daniels quit the business we added those two stores to our "chain" which ultimately grew to seven stores and a screen print business. We bought Garry out in 1982, added some new partners and the name morphed to GBS Sports. At the end of 1984 we restructured the operation and closed a bunch of stores. Chris Fuller and Chris Napolitano took over some of GBS including the Grand Avenue store; Steve opened Marathon Sports on 50th and Penn with Ted Beeman (Ted had been a partner with Scott Keenan in a running store in Duluth before moving to the TC). The full history is complicated and intriguing but this is the basic outline of what happened.

jdf said...

Thanks Phil. Was hoping that those involved would "fill in the blanks."

Chris Fuller said...

Phil Jenni gave a great summary of the early days of running stores in the Twin Cities. If you trace the lineages of the current running stores, you'll see many ties back to Steve.

In addition to retail, Steve was one of the earliest "professional" race directors in the Twin Cities, both because it was in his job description at GBS, and he because he elevated the standards with such things as course certifications and better timing and results. My start as a race director was in 1984, directing the St Paul Mile as part of a GBS series of races overseen by Steve. Several of his GBS races, St Patrick's Day Human Race, Hennepin-Lake Classic and Grand Old Day survived more than 30 years. He was also involved in the 1981 St Paul Marathon, which helped spur the creation to the Twin Cities Marathon, as well as helping create the Kaiser Roll and many other notable races. Most participants at today's races have no idea that they are built on the innovations and legacy of a handful of people, with Steve as a prominent leader and innovator.

jdf said...

Yes, Back then Road races were marketing tools for businesses, such as GBS. Bill Kennedy, who was working for Dayton's created the Get in Gear race to get the attention of those of us in the first "running boom." Jack Moran combined the City of Lakes Marathon with the St. Paul Marathon because he surmised that a single Twin Cities Marathon would draw more attention and participants than to have two races splitting up area runners who wanted a top flight local marathon.