Black Business Spotlight with Ian Gonzalez, Last Lap Cornerstore
Most runners almost always have different ventures throughout their run journey’s. We are all students of the sport that we run in where usually we take the information we’ve all gathered and pass it on to other novice runners that want to get into running which mostly lead to us moving into becoming a run coach, personal trainers or other professions that deal directly with improving our running. Every now and then comes a business that stands out especially when it’s created by runners that are like us, that are diverse and most of all understand our communities. Earlier this year Ian Gonzalez went a little bit against the grain, doing something within a pandemic that was truly awesome opening up his Last Lap Cornerstore. Last Lap (Black and Latino owned) is your friendly neighborhood one stop run shop located on the South Side of Chicago IL. Last Lap offers everything you need when it comes to running from run clothing to bags, recovery gels all the way down to weekly group runs because most of all they are runners. This month’s Mid Strike Magazine business highlight takes us to Chicago as we chat with Ian Gonzalez and his run shop Last Lap Cornerstore.
MSM: First we’d like to say congratulations and thank you for allowing us to share your journey. Opening up a run shop while in the middle of one of the largest pandemics this world has ever seen is a feat within itself. Where did the idea of Last Lap Cornerstore come from?
IAN – Thank you very much. Last Lap Conrerstore came out of the work I was already doing with 7onSundays and GumboFit. I run with runners of varying experiences and coach some into running their first 5ks up to Marathon distances. I would offer advice on what nutrition to use, what shoes to buy, and more, but then they would have to face the fact that none of these items were available in our neighborhoods. There are no running stores on the south side. They would have to trek all the way up north to find a specialty running store. That needed to end.
MSM: Normally ideas like this isn’t something that comes to fruition overnight. Was this something you knew you wanted to venture into years back.
IAN: Yea it didn’t happen overnight. More like an hour. The thought came to me one afternoon in June. I wasn’t working due to the pandemic. I knew I didn’t want to worry about applying for another job alongside the millions of others when the pandemic is gone. After landing on opening a store I looked to see if the name was taken on Instagram and it wasn’t, so I took that as a sign. I hopped on to the Illinois.gov site and filled out an application for a business license and paid for it with my unemployment check. My best impulse buy to date!
MSM: You’re from the South Side of Chicago. Was growing up and running something that you did in your youth? Were there elders that were into running that made you gain focus?
IAN: Definitely not. I didn’t play sports too much growing up. I read Harry Potter books and played video games with the homies.
MSM: What was it that made you get into running? Chicago is obviously most known for the Chicago Marathon along with other community races. Was there any race in particular that?
IAN: The marathon did have something to do with me starting to run. I was hired at Nike Running Bucktown right before the 2017 Chicago Marathon. Everyone I worked with was a runner. Some were even running in that year’s marathon. Everyone would be talking about their training plan and race experiences; meanwhile, I would feel left out but also inspired. I was already easing myself into a light running routine, so I decided to commit by signing up for the 2018 Marathon. And, I have been running ever since.
MSM: What are some of the things that have stood out to you on this run journey you’ve been on?
IAN: Along my running journey, I’ve met so many runners who are amazing! I want to support them as much as I can.
MSM: From what we’ve seen Last Lap feels like more than just a store. It feels like a place that has a sense of community where runners that are diverse can go to have a voice and be around people that can relate. Were these some of the things you wanted to focus on opening up Last Lap?
IAN: The community is the driving force of Last Lap Cornerstore. Last Lap is for the community and of the community. As we grow, our ability to support our community will grow as well and that is the goal!
MSM: As you opened you started with hosting community runs, what are some of the other things you’re doing to get the local community involved?
IAN: I partner with other local business and personal trainers to add more opportunities for runners to cross-train and find other local businesses to support. Once the weather warms up I will be bringing back my Another Saturday series. I loved working with Ashely of Free MVMT Shop, Paige of Undone Wellness, Marquita of Sweat Life, and GumboFit. I want to support them and more trainers of color in a real way. We also partner with a local Non-profit called Take It Off My Plate to host a Love Fridge for the surrounding community to come and access free food when needed.
MSM: As a runner and person not from Chicago and also a runner that’s from a neighborhood that doesn’t really cater to the run community, I’d find myself having to go to more white neighborhoods to get the run supplies that I would need. That within itself was a pain and a struggle especially during the larger races in NYC such as the NYCM, Brooklyn Half, NYC Half etc. I’m sure for you offering this one stop shop in a community that is like us has turned out to be a great feeling. How has it been serving your community?
IAN: It has been amazing! Having to go up north or downtown to get what I need for my training and races has always been the worst. So it fills up my cup when a customer comes in and says “I live right up the street”.
MSM: Last Lap isn’t your particular looking run store, not a huge storefront but is actually located in the Boxville section of Chicago. What I like about it is that it’s different and has its own appeal. How did you decide on using a shipping container for a storefront? Also what went into the name Last Lap?
IAN: Location and cost. Boxville is located in the Bronzeville neighborhood and that is very close to the popular running locations on the Southside of Chicago. Boxville is also a great place to start a business vs. the high cost of renting traditional commercial space. That along with the access to the Bronzeville Incubator and The Small Business Development Center just made the decision super easy!. Plus the smaller space helped me to contain myself and not spend crazy with my startup money. It kept me conservative and focused on the things I needed. I can do too much at times. Last Lap is where you really start to kick and push for that home stretch. As a father I feel like this is my last lap. Either this works or I am working for someone else for the rest of my life in order to pay for my children’s college tuition. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t for me.
MSM: Do you see Last Lap creating race events in the future? Ones that are community-based in the south side area?
IAN: Yes! I would love to do that! We have done some small 5k fun runs, but I want to do something real cool and competitive as well!
MSM: Needless to say, you have a customer here with us and we will be getting our race essentials from Last Lap going forward. We wish you guys nothing but the best and look forward to seeing you when we get back to some form of normalcy or when the Chicago Marathon comes back. Any last words you’d like to share with our readers?
IAN: The run doesn’t stop and neither will we. We run with you! And thank you for allowing us to!