R C Outfitters is a retail destina tion in Downtown Peoria. It hasn't been easy for store owner Adam White to earn that rare designation. RC Outfitters is the successor to Running Central, which opened in 1977 at the corner of Main Street and Sheridan Road in Peoria and remained there for 33 years. White and his brother Ian purchased Running Central from Steve Shostrum in 2008 and moved it to Heritage Square in Peoria Heights in 2011. Despite creating a spacious, modern space that some customers say has the look and feel of a downtown Chicago store, White has had to leap over several hurdles since moving in 2014 to the former Illinois Antique Center, a historic building on Peoria’s riverfront at 311 SW Water St. The most daunting obstacles that fell in White's lap were the proliferation of unscrupulous online shopping sites, followed almost immediately by the COVID-19 pandemic. “A vortex of holy crud,” is how White described the back-to-back storms. RC Outfitters has survived and thrived because White changed the focus of his business from running wear to active lifestyle wear with an accompanying name change from Running Central to RC Outfitters. Meanwhile, he made customer service a priority, got deeply involved in the community, and became an outspoken advocate for Downtown. A ‘NON-ESSENTIAL’ FIGHTS BACK Then there was White’s refusal to lock his doors indefinitely during COVID, in defiance of Gov. JB Pritzker’s continuance of his emergency 30-day stay-at-home order in the spring of 2020. Businesses like RC Outfitters were considered “non-essential,” and thus directed to close, even as many big box retailers selling some of the same goods were permitted to stay open. With the future of his business and what he considered his

in the door,” Madison said. “You can tell Adam’s staff has been trained well. Whether it's an 18-year-old or a 65-year old, they know their stuff.” Williams calls the RC Outfitters staff “old school.” “You get a hand-written note in the mail after you've shopped there. Who else does that?” she said. “It’s all about the small details that make shopping there so enjoyable.” A BIGTIME, WINDY CITY FEEL Madison and Dawn Kellum of Peoria, another longtime RC Outfitters customer, said RC Outfitters is unique in downstate Illinois. “The first time I went in there, I thought, I’m in downtown Chicago,” Madison said. “Adam carries Royal Robbins clothing, which I love and can't find anywhere else around here.” White is proud of his 20,000-square foot store, which brags 9,000 square feet of showroom space and offers active-lifestyle merchandise appropriate for the office and travel. With 250,000 people living within a 20-mile radius of his store, White has a solid customer base covering 16 counties. But he's well aware that alone doesn't guarantee success for a business. “I can't be everything to everybody, but I can find a niche and do it well,” White said, noting the majority of his customers are between 30 and 65. Some 60% are women. RC Outfitters carries more than 7,000 pairs of shoes including lifestyle brands such as Birkenstock, Blundstone, Oboz and Hey Dude. Apparel sales account for almost 50% of the store's revenue,

civil liberties at stake, White sued the governor, citing it as his “only prayer” for survival. Ultimately, he could not convince a Sangamon County judge to see things his way, but the effort garnered national media attention and ironically, White maintains, saved his business and his employees’ livelihoods. “We saw as many customers during that time period as we’d usually see in six months, and they came from 20, 30, 45, 60, 90 miles away,” he said. “I was proud I stood up when so many sat down.” A BORN RISK-TAKER, AN ‘OLD SCHOOL’ APPROACH Suing a governor was a bold move. So was opening a business Downtown, said a longtime RC Outfitters customer. “Adam took a gamble. He stuck his neck out,” said Peoria resident Larry Madison. “He's the No. 1 reason I go Downtown. I shop at his store two or three times a month. I probably wouldn’t go Downtown more than three or four times a year if Adam wasn't there.” While there, Madison said, he also patronizes places like Ardor Breads and Provisions, Catrina's Express, Kelly Seed & Hardware and the UFS Downtown Outlet Center. “I don't know if I would normally go to those businesses if Adam's store wasn't Downtown,” he said. Madison and Cathy Williams of Peoria, another longtime RC Outfitters customer, were ebullient in their praise for RC Outfitters’ customer service. About 40 employees work there. “You feel like family when you walk


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