Formerly a living room, the main event space inside the Mill City Athletic Club will host pop-ups with brands, post-run gatherings and more. Photos by Eric Best

Mill City Running expands with athletic club for runners

Updated: June 18, 2018 - 3:23 pm

Owners say Mill City Athletic Club will be a ‘home base’ for the store’s 400-person racing community

The Mill City Athletic Club has the look of an old-school health club, from century-old collegiate plaques on the wall to lockers that look like they came out of a 1970s recreation center.

What’s missing? All the workout equipment.

The health club, set for a Friday grand opening, is located above Mill City Running and its members aren’t working out much inside, but on the streets and trails outside. Rather than a fitness center, co-owner Jeff Metzdorff describes the concept as a “home base” for the store’s 400-strong racing team, as well as a place to host events, co-working tenants and the store’s employees.

Or, as he calls it, “the way-out-there concept that we have no idea if it’s going to work or not but we’re going to try it.”

“We have an amazing community, but it’s so big that we really needed some additional room. We couldn’t continue to do what we’re doing in our existing space,” he said.

Photo by Eric Best
Photo by Eric Best

mlc athletic club web 3The club occupies the second story of the retailer’s building on Hennepin Avenue in the Nicollet Island-East Bank neighborhood. Metzdorff and Bekah, his wife and business partner, have transformed the space from an apartment into a vintage rec room with a kitchen, seating, lockers and a versatile event space. A nutritionist and a massage therapist rent out part of the 2,000-square-foot space as well.

Metzdorff said they needed a place to bring members of the store’s racing team, a community of several hundred runners who’ve paid an annual $55 fee to get store discounts, access to group races, a runner singlet and other benefits. Access to the club will come at no additional cost to members. So far, they’ve hosted yoga classes tailored for runners and Metzdorff said they plan to rent it out for events.

“You’ve got somebody trying to get fitted for shoes when 100 people come back. It just started to inhibit business. So, let’s bring it up here. It’s so rare you get an opportunity to expand your existing footprint and have something that’s this beautiful sitting right above you,” he said.

Photo by Eric Best
Photo by Eric Best

mlc athletic club web 4The Mill City Running community has come a long way since it opened five years ago. The shop, which focuses on running shoes, apparel and accessories, began hosting group runs soon after it opened. Metzdorff said their location near the riverfront, lakes and trails is a “catalyst” for growth.

“We were lucky if we would get four people to show up. A lot of the times it’d be my wife, her mother and then two people going on these group runs. We’re so fortunate that these runs have grown,” he said.

Mill City Running will use the space as a pop-up shop for specialty brands largely on weekends. The first one will be Tracksmith, a Boston-based premium running apparel maker that typically sells straight to consumers. Metzdorff said the store offers wares from specialty brands runners can’t found in most retailers, such as Vancouver, Canada-based lululemon.

“From an insider point of view, it’s huge. Within the industry, getting a brand like Tracksmith definitely turns heads,” he said.

The Mill City Athletic Club, at 411 E. Hennepin Ave., will open Friday, June 8 with a free event with Tracksmith CEO Matt Taylor from 7 p.m.–9 p.m.

Photo by Eric Best
Photo by Eric Best