How A Zombie Themed Running Store Became Palo Alto’s No. 1 Coffee Joint

Co-owner of ZombieRunner standing outside storefront, getting ready for a run.

ZombieRunner – A Place for Runners, Coffee Junkies and the Zombie-obsessed

What’s the secret for getting your business to stand out from the crowd?

Many business owners might think that distinguishing themselves means having the biggest building on the block, the fanciest website or the priciest products. But there are many other creative ways to find your business niche and provide value to your customers.

Just ask ZombieRunner co-owners Don Lundell and Gillian Robinson.

In 2003, Don and Gillian decided to leave their high-tech careers behind and embrace their new-found love — running (between the two of them, they have completed more than 250 marathons and ultras!). The duo opened up an online shop for trail runners, adventure racers, hikers and anyone who loves the outdoors.

As their online business began to grow, Don and Gillian decided it was time to take things to the next level. They began their search for a warehouse and stumbled upon their ideal storefront location — and the rest was history. They decided to expand their business to brick-and-mortar and opened up shop in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2008.

Along with a brick-and-mortar store came an entire local community of avid runners. Don and Gillian knew this sense of community was something special and would give them the advantage they needed. The co-owners were persistent and passionate about their products and consistently made the effort to offer unique products and specialized items for their loyal customers.

As their business grew, they decided to incorporate a local coffee shop into their storefront. Although it may sound a tad unconventional to combine a running store with a coffee shop, the coffee side of the business has proven to be extremely successful — producing anywhere between 400 and 600 drinks per day.

The coffee shop is not only a critical part of their business, but is also an essential part of their customer community. The combined enterprise provides a place for the running community and the coffee drinkers to get together and share their passion for running over a morning cup of joe. ZombieRunner has turned runners into coffee-drinkers, and coffee-drinkers into runners.

Although their business has been extremely successful and grown steadily over the years, Don and Gillian gain the most satisfaction from having a strong store community, and they take tremendous pride in their customer-centered business.

But, it doesn’t hurt when someone comes in for a coffee and leaves with a new pair of running shoes.

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323 N. Mathilda Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94085-4207



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