This past weekend I had an opportunity to experience the Blue Ribbon Sports store in Santa Monica. For those that are unaware, Blue Ribbon Sports is the name of the company that would eventually become Nike. The store, located at 3107 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, was the first retail space for the footwear and apparel titan, opened in January of 1967 as a specialty running store/community space for runners by Jeff Johnson.
From the moment you walk into the space, you begin to feel the history as well as the overwhelming sense of community that Mr. Johnson created many years ago. Lined along the right wall are greyscale photos from days previous, all of which bring a warming and nostalgic feeling of what this space was like during previous time periods. You can move to your left, and there you will be greeted with a wall-to-wall shelf lined with running books, different Nike Sneaker models(the OG Cortez’s were calling my name!) and even a projector that drops down! Along with that, you have a very comfortable seating area, where I found a bunch of other runners conversing, including the current manager, Jeff Jefferson. They even had an old school Konami Track and Field arcade game in the corner. I am still excited and geeked about being able to take in the space; it is compact and yet doesn’t feel tight, and you are almost transported into this completely different time period as you move within the space. Not to mention the location is in Santa Monica and yet when you walk in, it feels like you are in a more remote location.
The excitement continued once we came back from our trail run. I have to point out that the run was amazing but I wanted to focus on the store. With that in mind, the trail run was spectacular. Being out in Mandeville Canyon with such breathtaking views, fresh air, and the ocean as our backdrop helped inspire me to keep pushing my body, even though every muscle fiber in my body screamed for a reprieve.
The highlight of the experience was coming back to Blue Ribbon Sports and having breakfast prepared for us(Nike waffles shaped like sneakers with the official Nike check in the middle? YES, may I have like six of them). Jeff Jefferson explained to me, “When we reopened the space, we wanted to create that sense of community again. A place where we could run and talk about running, in a setting that felt very comfortable. That’s what Jeff Johnson created when the store first opened; when he came back for the soft opening in November 2018, he was happy with what we showed him”.
Blue Ribbon Sports and Nike nailed it with this space. Again it just feels like a place you want to go, engage with the running community, and have sneaker shaped waffles with the Nike logo in them. I have to say I walked away from the experience extremely impressed and will definitely be taking part in another run, maybe just adding in some more practice runs before my next 8 mile run.