By Julie Chyna
Sisters Kate and Anne Pezalla had a head start when they were considering Oak Park as a location for their new business. Having grown up in Oak Park, they already understood and loved the community, and knew it would be a good fit for their women’s fitness apparel and shoe store, Lively Running.
“Oak Park women tend to be very active, but we saw that a lot of them were driving out to Oakbrook or into Chicago for athletic apparel,” Kate says. “We saw a need for a place in our area where women could not only get their fitness clothes and shoes but do it in a warm, supportive environment. That’s especially important when you’re shopping for a sports bra!”
Lively Running was a true labor of love. When their mother passed away after a long battle with leukemia, the sisters took comfort in running and spending time with family. Realizing that they wanted to continue building that family bond, Kate and Anne started talking about projects they could work on together.
“Eventually, Anne said, ‘What if we opened a store?” Kate explains. “That was a couple of years ago—we worked on this idea for a long time before opening our doors.”
The store provides hard-to-find independent brands along with bigger labels. Because the sisters are both certified running coaches as well as users of their store’s products, they can offer customers first-hand advice on their purchases as well as their fitness plans.
“Whether they’re already involved in a sport, or they’re just getting started, or maybe just getting back into it after having a baby or recovering from an injury, we can give suggestions,” Kate says. “We know what we’re talking about. People come in and tell us about their training, they can ask us questions, we can have a long talk about it. They can feel confident when we explain why we think a piece of apparel or a specific shoe will work for them.”
The Pezallas’ father still lives in Oak Park, in the house where the sisters grew up. In addition, a third Pezalla sister is an artist and lives in Portland, yet she has been involved in the enterprise as well—she designed the store window for the store’s opening.
That’s why this family venture includes plans for continuing their involvement in Oak Park community events, such as their sponsorship of the Pleasant District Family Triathlon and the Frank Lloyd Wright Races. In addition, Lively Running will begin to offer its own Oak Park-related fitness events, such as “GOvember,” in the month of November.
“During the month of November, we challenged Oak Parkers to run every north-south street in Oak Park,” Pezalla says. “It’s over 100 miles total. We had maps in the store to help runners track their progress, and there were prizes for people who completed the challenge by bringing in their completed map.”
“We’re so glad that we decided to open up here,” Kate says. “Oak Parkers like to support local businesses, and the response has been overwhelmingly supportive and positive. My sister and I are really grateful to the Oak Park community and we’re looking forward to building that relationship with the town we love.”
Each issue of The Oak Parker will feature a profile of an independent Oak Park business.
Photo: Michael Kohnhorst