Lola's Laces is just about the complete opposite of every successful big chain athletics store.
Instead of selling thousands of products, the store has a carefully curated selection of items. There is no track in between the racks for customers to test out their new sneakers. In its place, they can go around the corner to Safety Harbor's Main Street and see how it feels to run on the actual pavement. Loud upbeat music and a team of employees are also nowhere to be seen. It's just owner Anita Martin willing to help any customer who comes in — and that's just the way she likes it.
Martin opened Lola's Laces this year after years of struggling to find workout clothes for her body that didn't fit the cookie-cutter athletic build portrayed on magazine covers.
She noticed many women like her saw the lack of appropriate technical clothing, a well-fitted sports bra and the ideal pair of shoes as an obstacle to an active lifestyle and resolved to fix it.
A tank top with carefully placed seams to avoid chaffing ($25), shorts that wick away moisture so sweat doesn't get in the way ($52) and the right sneakers for different kinds of athletic injury are some of the products Martin had already tried and tested for 15 years and knew were worthy of recommendation, so she included them in the inventory.
Trying on one of the sports bras, available in nine different styles and bigger cups, is like getting advice from an expert on the subject, from what brand to choose, to how to put it on and even check if it has the resistance necessary — inside the fitting room, no workout required — so every customer can achieve her goal, whether that's running a marathon, 5K or just around the block.
— Natalia Galbetti is a freelance writer and director of sales and marketing at k.hendrix in St. Petersburg. Follow her on Twiter at @NatiGalbetti.