A running store that opened in Richmond Hill three years ago has grown into much more.
A ribbon cutting Friday and grand opening Saturday celebrated the expansion of the running company and the addition of a bicycle shop as the centerpieces of the 16,000-square-foot Game Changers Health and Fitness Complex on Ford Avenue.
“This is a huge day for us here, and for the whole complex,” John Cameron, co-owner of Game Changers Bike and Multi-Sport, said at the ribbon cutting.
Georgia Game Changers Running Company began as a 1,400-square-foot store not far from where the new complex was built. The running store’s new location is 6,000 square feet, with the 2,200-square-foot bike store next to it.
A yoga studio, vitamin shop and physical therapy center will be added to the complex “within the next 30 to 60 days,” according to Ron Elliott, chief financial officer of the running company and a partner in the bike shop.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Georgia Game Changers Running Company CEO Sandra Elliott. “The dream started small, but be saw the need to grow in the community just because people wanted more.”
And Game Changers offers more than simply a place to buy a bicycle or running shoes, she said.
The Elliotts want the complex to be a place for people to meet for runs or bike rides. A running track is behind the facility, and a 3,800-square-foot breezeway between the running store and bike shop can be used for meetings and events.
“We did this because we wanted to have an experience and a destination point for the community,” Ron Elliott said. “It’s not about selling shoes. It’s not about selling bikes.”
He used the example of a group who gathered at the complex for a bike ride the previous weekend.
“There were probably 40 local bikers out here at 7 o’clock last Saturday morning, taking off on a 30-mile road ride from here,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Game Changers hosts running clinics as well as educational programs on a number of fitness topics, Sandra Elliott said. The employees wear T-shirts with the words, “How can I help you with your fitness goals?”
Inside the running store is Victory Haven Café, an organic juice and smoothie bar owned by 15-year breast cancer survivor Naomi Havens. Havens, who declined radiation or chemotherapy for her cancer treatment, promotes a natural approach to health and fitness.
“The whole complex is dedicated to health and fitness,” said Sandra Elliott, a retired Army physical therapist. “We want this to be a place where people can come and have fun, have events and look forward to spending some time getting fit with their families.”
Cameron’s interest in opening the bicycle shop began after he moved to Richmond Hill from Texas. An avid bike rider, he was disappointed when he learned Richmond Hill had no place for him to buy a bike tube he needed.
“I thought, ‘This is crazy,’” Cameron said. “Not only is the city losing revenue, but you’re losing it to the Internet as well because I’m not driving into Savannah to buy a bike tire.”
He shared that sentiment when he bought a pair of running shoes at the old Game Changers location and struck up a conversation with Sandra Elliott.
“She said, ‘We need to do something about it,’” Cameron recalled. “I said, ‘You’re right.’
“So, a year-and-a-half later, here we are – and we did decide to do something about it,” he continued. “The response has been fantastic from everybody.”