Mark and Cynthia Lorenzoni opened Ragged Mountain Running Shop on Elliewood Avenue in 1982, and they’ve been pillars of the Charlottesville community ever since. Every year, Mark trains hundreds of athletes, from newbies to elite runners, and directs a dozen local races, all without pay.
Under lockdown, Mark has kept the training going, emailing workouts and even organizing the “Triple Crown,” a series of socially distant races (runners choose one of multiple courses to run any time in a three-day window) to raise money for local charities.
The shop, once described in these pages as “part clubhouse, part support group, part town square,” has also kept going, even though it was one of the first in town to close its doors, on March 13. “We had a big family meeting,” says Lorenzoni, whose two oldest children, Alec and Audrey, become co-owners of the business last fall. “It was like a reality show, it went on for an hour.”
Though Mark initially thought closing was premature, his children convinced him, and now he says Ragged Mountain will likely be one of the last to re-open. “We won’t do that until it’s 100 percent safe.” In the meantime, he’s staying positive. “We’re trying to make the best of it,” he says. “And to be good neighbors.”
How has your business adapted during the shutdown?
We’ve been using this motto that we closed the doors, but we’re still open to serve you like we have in the past. We’re trying to recreate the same service, but in a safe manner.
Our online store, we just went to town with it, getting that as up to date as we’d ever had it before. We started offering a 15 percent discount to everyone. And then we did next-day shipping, free. That’s huge. We tried to get out ahead of it, to say, “okay, you’re willing to support our family during this time, we’re going to give back to you as best we can.”
We’ve done free home delivery for years, but most people weren’t aware of it. Now we do anywhere from 15-25 a day. And we have curbside pickup and try-on. That’s the coolest thing.
People are doing a virtual gait analysis with us [through video] if they’re new. Then what we do is we put about five shoes out on the curb, they come up, we have all these try-on stations that are 10, 12 feet apart, and we go out there and help, with masks on. We’re not touching people, but we’re able to talk to them.
In a weird way, we’ve kind of expanded services beyond what we’d normally do. It’s good for Cynthia and I, it’s exciting to create new things. Here we are in our mid-60s, and it’s like we’re kids again, starting up the business.
What have you struggled with the most during these past few months?
For me there hasn’t been the great sacrifices that so many other families have had to make. We live in a community where we can go outside. Life has been good to us in a lot of ways.
We’ve had two family things: We don’t get to be physically with our grandkids, that’s been a little tough. And my wife’s mother died recently. We had her in a nursing home here in town, and we couldn’t see her for nine weeks. That was really a sacrifice for my wife, and for me too.
I think the worst part for me has been knowing that there are so many people in this country and around the world who are suffering.
What’s bringing you joy?
One thing that’s come out of this that’s been a joy has been to see us appreciating the everyday people. You know a lot of times we don’t appreciate people who work in the grocery store, doctors and nurses. And so I think it’s been a good time for that.
And I think we’re really lucky that this hit our area in the spring, when we can get outside. Cynthia and I garden a lot. We get up in the morning, we go for a walk. We’ve walked every morning together since we closed the business.
We feel the spirit of this community even more than we ever have before, in the outpouring of support we’ve had. Our business is down, but we’re keeping going, people are keeping us going.
This has been one of the most thrilling times in that people are wanting to help their neighbors. So many local businesses are shopping with us, and we’re trying to give back to them too.
What’s something you’re reading, watching, or listening to that you’re enjoying right now?
I listen to the news every day, but I try to find a movie at night. I just watched Something’s Gotta Give. I love that movie. I completely disappeared into Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton for two hours. I think we have to be responsible, we have to read the news but we also have to find a balance.
I do a Zoom meeting, social meetings, at least four or five times a week. Like tonight, it’s my floor: I was an RA in 1977 to 1978, two years, I had freshmen and sophomores, I called them my boys. And we’ve kept in touch, there’s 30 of us, and tonight we’re having a happy hour, on Zoom. I’m doing this with my athletes once a week. Those have been fun things.
We’re so busy, we’re so stressed, and now, I think it’s this incredible pause. And I do think it’s a silver lining to the death and the sadness of it.
In this new series, we’ll be catching up with familiar faces around town, to talk about how they’re weathering this crisis. Is there someone you’d like to hear from? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.