It’s easy to see a problem as a problem and not as an opportunity. It takes a lot of courage and hard work to find a solution, act upon it, and see it through, but that’s exactly what Art Juedes and Rick Gering did with Eastbay.
Throughout their time as competitive runners in high school and college, Juedes and Gering realized the best running shoes were hard to come by for athletes in small towns. As lifelong friends (they were born two days apart in the same hospital and grew up three houses away), they had always wanted to go into business together, and this quickly became the perfect opportunity.
It all started with one simple problem, but instead of ignoring it, they created a solution and poured their blood, sweat, and tears into it like true entrepreneurs.
The Problem: Athletes in Central Wisconsin had to travel more than 100 miles to buy high-quality running shoes.
The Solution: Bring the shoes to the athletes. Juedes and Gering drove nearly 200 miles to Milwaukee to buy $7,000 worth of running shoes. With a carload of shoes and a dream, the two of them drove around Central Wisconsin, selling shoes and teaching athletes and coaches about the benefits of the right gear.
The Hardship: To make Eastbay a success, Juedes and Gering knew they had to fully commit and make it a full-time job. As with any start-up company, the first year didn’t bring in a lot of money, and what it did bring in was poured right back into the company. The two founders were pocketing just $5 a week, relying on their wives for financial support. By the second year, that number grew to $20 a week.
The Turning Point: Eastbay grew as large as it could by the mid-1990s, and the only way to make the leap to a global leader was to seek out help. In 1997, Eastbay joined Foot Locker Inc. (then called Woolworth Athletic Group) to give them more access to professional athletes and a wider range of gear.
The Evolution: For 18 years, Eastbay gear was ordered through the mail or over the phone. In 1998, eastbay.com went from a simple informational site to an active ecommerce site. Today, eastbay.com is one of the leading athletic retail sites and offers most brands, colors, styles, and sizes than anyone else.
The Result: It started as a homegrown company, and despite 35 years of evolution, that hometown heritage hasn’t changed. The idea in the beginning was to help athletes become better, and that hasn’t changed — we’ve just gotten better at it. Eastbay has been introducing new ways to help athletes to become their best, and through the largest selection of gear, expert training tips, and exclusive looks into the lives of the pros, Eastbay has become the first choice for athletes.
Check out Eastbay’s 35th anniversary to see a timeline of the moments that shaped Eastbay.