MIDDLETOWN — Regardless of whether you’re running a race or searching for a business, you look for an opening, make a move and push for a win.
That’s what the owners of Elite Feet, a Middletown-based specialty running store, did when they opened their establishment.
And now, it has been recognized as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Delaware Minority-Owned Business of the Year.
It all began with Jason and Joy Hunt’s active family. They are parents, coaches, business owners, volunteers and athletes.
“I have a background in track. I’ve run track since I was 6 years old, all the way up until college. We, as a whole family, play sports,” Mr. Hunt said. “My wife’s a runner. My kids are runners. They actually are high-level soccer players.”
It was one day about seven years ago, while driving from their home in Middletown to the Christiana Mall to shop for footwear, when he thought, “I hate driving to the mall.”
The young family had set down roots in Middletown because they recognized the area was sprinting in its growth and saw an opportunity.
“We knew that Middletown is up-and-coming. It has the No. 1 school district in the state, and everybody’s coming here to the center of the state,” Mr. Hunt said.
Meanwhile, he and his wife had dreamed of owning a business and were searching for inspiration when that drive to the mall jogged his memory.
That recollection helped them find a direction — shoes for active people and families — and the couple opened Elite Feet at 5238 Summit Bridge Road in 2015.
“So Elite Feet provides premier footwear for the entire family. We are your local footwear specialists,” Mr. Hunt said.
When you walk into the shop, it looks like a shoe store, but it is much more. Elite Feet is centered on its customers’ needs and shopping experiences, but what sets it apart is its service, beginning with consultations with the Hunts by appointment only, during which clients’ gaits are measured, how they stand and the condition of their arches are evaluated and their needs are defined.
“We offer ... running shoes, walking shoes, cross-training shoes for men, women and children. We do have some boots, as well,” Mr. Hunt said. “Whether you’re a CrossFitter, you’re a cross-trainer, whether you’re walking your dog, whether you’re running a 5K or a marathon, we can take care of your feet.”
The pandemic changed how Elite Feet does business, as it switched to the appointment-only model to promote social distancing and create a safe environment. But the Hunts plan to continue the practice because of the personalized level of service.
The entrepreneurs also have taken their work on the road by recently acquiring a climate-controlled trailer.
“The mobile store is a 7-by-15(-foot) trailer,” Mr. Hunt said. “We basically are able to pull up to things like 5Ks, half-marathons. We go to a lot of the high schools. It’s an extension to the store,” he said.
The Hunts’ first step when starting Elite Feet was to turn to SBA’s Delaware District Office.
“They have always helped out. They’re always, obviously, helping small businesses. That’s what they do. They’re a huge resource, even under the (Paycheck Protection Program) and all that stuff with the pandemic,” Mr. Hunt said. “They’re instrumental with that stuff, so we appreciate them and everything that they’ve done. They’ve always come around, and we’ve always tried to be diligent with them, as well. So you know, it’s a great relationship.”
All the Hunts’ accomplishments have led to Elite Feet’s recognition as the 2022 Delaware Minority-Owned Business of the Year.
Mr. Hunt said he is excited and grateful his store was honored.
And even when the family isn’t helping customers find footwear, or out running themselves, they give back and help others. Mr. Hunt is a founder of the nonprofit group ICONS, which empowers young people with events, services and support.
“Our flagship program is called Cuts for Kids. Every year, we give out free haircuts and book bags filled with school supplies for all the kids in the area,” he said. “We’ve been doing that for over seven years now. We always want to be involved in the community and not only be community leaders but business leaders, as well.”
For information about Elite Feet, visit elitefeet302.com.