Ian Gonzalez never pictured himself as a runner, but after working the Chicago Marathon in 2017, he fell in love with the running community and began training for the next Chicago Marathon. While training, Ian noticed a lack of running supply stores and an absence of a running community within his native South Side.
“There was no access to any essentials that you need to run or train for a marathon: shoes, gear, and, most importantly, nutrition,” Ian said. He also noticed that many runners on the South Side ran alone, unlike the running communities he saw on the North Side. Ian and his friends founded 7onSundays, a South Side running group, to cater to a predominantly Black community of runners.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, Ian opened Last Lap Cornerstore to further support runners on the South Side. “I [asked myself] what makes sense, what makes me feel good? And it was these runners that I had built a relationship with,” Ian said. “And I thought, how can I serve them more? That’s when I realized all these gaps on the South Side. And that’s why I started the store.”
Today, Last Lap Cornerstore operates out of Boxville, the Bronzeville neighborhood marketplace built from shipping containers.
Unable to borrow from a traditional bank, Ian came to A4CB and obtained a small business loan in 2021 to grow his business. “[A4CB] not just saying ‘no’ to me and walking away meant so much. It made a world of a difference.”
Ian’s loan helped him create more branded merchandise for his store and covered general operating expenses during the slower business months. Moving forward, Ian hopes his store will continue to be a pillar for the South Side running community, living up to its name. “Corner stores carry things that the community wants,” Ian said. “That’s what I want for Last Lap — the aspect of being a hub for runners, where runners will come spend time. That’s the kind of environment that I want.”