History of Chicks’ Night — A note from Lisa
A lot has changed in the twenty years I’ve been in the running industry. From the nylon tracksuits and cotton t-shirts we wore in the ’90s to today’s amazing technical materials, I’ve had a bird’s eye view of the shifting trends in a sport I love.
Why do I love it so much – as do so many of you? It’s simple. It’s because running has the power to build community.
In fact, that was exactly why my husband and myself established Fleet Feet Sports in Chicago in 1996.
We felt the existing specialty stores catered heavily to men and to elite runners and ignored a whole lot of people who liked to run for fun. As we’ve grown from one store to seven, our locally-owned and operated business has always been deeply rooted in bringing people together through fun runs, races, running education and special events. And over the last twenty years, we have seen women become an increasingly important part of the running community, here in Chicago and across the country.
Did you know that women runners have driven virtually all growth in the specialty running business over the last few years? I’m proud of how our store has contributed to that and wanted to share with you a little more history.
I am an entrepreneur-working mother of two children (9 and 11) with a background in marketing. Seventeen years ago — when I was in my 30s, pre-children and working on developing Fleet Feet Sports — I set out to create a safe, supportive and fun environment for women of all abilities and ages to come and run.
Fast, slow, big, little, young, old — all women were welcome. We realized in the early days of Fleet Feet Sports that a fun run was a way to bring people together and inspire people to run no matter what kind of day they had.
With the help of another runner in the club — a professional woman and our graphic designer — we brainstormed ideas for a name and identity for our new women’s group. We looked at all the typical words associated with “women,” but we could not find the right fit.
We worried “Women’s Run” would discourage the young runners in the neighborhood who came out to run after school. “Ladies Night” recalled the bar specials especially dominant in the cocktail culture of the late ’90s. The “Dixie Chicks” were just becoming widely known and listened to at that time and some of the women who came to the runs would endearingly call each other “chick.” “Hey chick, how are you?” We embraced it and we had fun with it. With the support of the group — about 20 regulars or so then — we developed the name “Chicks’ Night,” and a little “peep” chick became the emblem of the group.
We were aware of the potentially derogatory connotations of the word “chick” but we felt the tongue-in-cheek approach would be more inclusive than the other options and so we embraced it without reservation as fun and kitschy. And what we called ourselves was never as important as the original goal to grow and support women’s running.
The Fleet Feet Sports’ Chicks’ Night name and logo has since remained constant in each of the stores that we have opened, and many of the original “Chicks” are still running with us. 5K runners have become marathoners. Young women have become mothers and are passing on their love for running to their children. Friendships and relationships have been built out of “Chicks’ Night.” Occasionally someone comments on the name of the group but there is such a connection to the name for so many women who have started their athletic endeavors with us, and bonded over the experience, that we never have opted to change anything about it.
Rather, we continue to believe that it was a way to empower women with a feeling of belonging. When it comes down to it, the name and logo were about fun and not taking ourselves too seriously. Life, careers, parenthood — it’s all so serious. It’s nice to have something fun to run to. And I’m proud of the role Fleet Feet Sports’ “Chicks’ Nights” have had in expanding the running community Chicago.
Come out and join us!
Lisa Zimmer, co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports