“TERRESTRIAL LOCOMOTION. IT’S WALKING THE EARTH. IT’S MOVING FORWARD,” DESCRIBES TERRALOCO OWNER TIFFANY PIOTROWICZ REGARDING THE RUNNING STORE’S NAME, WHICH INTENTIONALLY EXCLUDES THE WORD “RUNNING.” AFTER A FEW MINUTES WITH TERRALOCO’S DOWN-TO-EARTH AND FRIENDLY OWNER, IT IS EASY TO SEE THAT “MOVING FORWARD“ DESCRIBES PIOTROWICZ AS WELL.
A Rochester native, Piotrowicz studied paralegal and English at Winona State University. This may not be the typical education of a business owner, but she had been working at the running store as a manager when the opportunity to buy TerraLoco arose. Though she didn’t see herself as a business owner (at least not at that time), Piotrowicz seized the opportunity anyway and has owned TerraLoco since 2015.
Piotrowicz credits her success in the retail business to taking chances and asking for help when needed. TerraLoco’s success may also be related to the practice of listening to the community in regard to filling both TerraLoco’s shelves and Piotrowicz’s own schedule.
Piotrowicz strives to offer what the community wants and needs in a specialty shop. “It’s a running store that’s there to support anyone in the community, from competitive runners to people who just want to be more active,” says Piotrowicz. The staff is available and ready to assist whether you’ve somehow been convinced to sign up for your first 5K or you are working toward a Boston Marathon qualifying time.
Though its roots are a running store, Piotrowicz describes TerraLoco as an “active lifestyle” retail shop, catering to feet that are hard to fit. The store is also the only place in Rochester to offer video gait analysis so customers can find the perfect shoe for the way they run. Always moving forward, Piotrowicz is diversifying and will offer not only running gear and apparel, but also yoga, hiking, athleisure and casual clothing. TerraLoco offer classes, running groups and other workshops, as well.
BEGINNING THE JOURNEY
Piotrowicz is always moving forward but it wasn’t always as a runner. In 2010 she was “overweight, out of shape and in a funk,” she states. After seeing the exhaustion and elation of a friend in the 2010 Med City Marathon, Piotrowicz decided she could do that too. She signed up for and completed her first sprint triathlon later that summer. She finished that race and she’s been running and racing since.
She thinks back over that journey when she makes decisions about events and products offered at TerraLoco. She always keeps the new runner in mind and states that a big part of TerraLoco is reaching out to those who don’t really see themselves as runners.
Piotrowicz wants everyone from new to experienced runners to feel welcome in a “no judgment, no intimidation atmosphere.” To that goal, TerraLoco hosts running classes for beginners and gets people started in the sport from wherever they are in their own journey. Piotrowicz says, “TerraLoco isn’t a store; it is a community. We are a family of runners, walkers and everything in between. We fail sometimes, just like you. We have a hard time rolling out of bed when the schedule calls for a long run on a Sunday morning, just like you. We hesitate over clicking that ‘Register’ button, just like you. We’re in this journey together.”
Piotrowicz uses the term “community” a lot. And it is clear she means it. TerraLoco shows its commitment to community by offering discounts for local high school athletes, runners’ self-defense classes and pacing teams at local marathons. The store relies on the community of Rochester and other locally owned businesses to be successful. Piotrowicz sees strong interconnectivity between herself and the Rochester business community. She feels the support among business owners in Rochester and is very intentional about supporting locally owned businesses herself.
Collaboration within the nonprofit community is important too. Courtney Lawson, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southeast Minnesota, loved the community focus she saw at TerraLoco and reached out to Piotrowicz with an idea. The pair joined forces to offer a running group to help runners maintain positive mental health. Lawson shares she is, “Continually impressed by Tiffany’s willingness to think innovatively and (the fact that she) is connected to a variety of local resources.”
TerraLoco hosts weekly $5 5K runs to benefit local nonprofits, bringing in 40-100 runners weekly, all sweating for a cause. These runs offer an easy way to support local nonprofits while improving one’s own fitness at the same time. They also offer an easy way to strengthen relationships with others, learn about a local cause and possibly explore volunteering with a new group.
STAY OUT OF THE SUN RUN
Moving forward in yet another direction, Piotrowicz will continue in her second year as race director for Rochester’s own Stay Out of the Sun (SOS) 5K and 10K run May 18. TerraLoco will continue as race sponsor. The SOS run is in its 13th year of heightening awareness and boosting funding for melanoma research. The SOS run also offers a unique opportunity to race at night. Piotrowicz is proud to point out that all proceeds from the run benefit melanoma research and education through the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Rochester.
Thinking about lacing up your shoes and moving forward in your running journey? Piotrowicz encourages, “Take it one step at a time, but go for it.” She emphasizes setting ground rules for yourself along with setting a personal goal. Force yourself into doing the work and then…do the work. If you are looking for a great personal goal to work toward, click the ‘Register’ button for the Stay Out of the Sun Run (sosrun.org) and join the Rochester running community. You can bet Piotrowicz will be there, always moving forward.
Erin Pagel is a freelance writer in Rochester and is on her own running journey.