Professional horse jockey Gary Benson (right) tries on a pair of K-Ona Ironman shoes with the help of employee Joe Montoya at the new K-Swiss shoe store on Main Street on Thursday afternoon. The store is the only U.S.-based running store owned by K-Swiss. (photo by Brandon Wise)

EDGEMAR CENTER — Main Street is now home to the only U.S.-based K-Swiss running retail store.

The iconic California-sport footwear and apparel brand is looking to elevate its presence leading up to the Los Angeles Marathon, which will take place in March of 2010 and end near the Santa Monica Pier for the first time in the race’s history. K-Swiss is the marathon’s official footwear and apparel sponsor.

“The Santa Monica store will play a key role in our partnership with the L.A. Marathon, especially since the finish line is less than a mile away,” said David Nichols, executive vice president of K-Swiss. “With product, experienced staff, and coaching advice, we see the store as a go-to destination for runners as they train for this big event.”

K-Swiss currently operates running stores in Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.

What sets the running store apart from other retail outlets is the dedication to finding the right fit for each runner by using treadmills and other “fitting systems” to gauge a person’s stride and prescribe the appropriate shoes, said Mark Sheehan, director of performance footware for K-Swiss.

The goal is to also offer drinks and snacks to help boost an athlete’s performance. There will also be seminars and clinics for enhanced coaching, with the store becoming a gathering spot for group runs. The L.A. Roadrunners group has already been testing K-Swiss’ new products and are becoming a resource for the brand to gather feedback and make improvements to products.

“We are really looking to become a part of the community,” Sheehan said.

The new store is located at the Edgemar Center at the former site of Royal Elastics, a hip, youth-oriented brand that was formerly owned by K-Swiss, which sold the company in April.

Anthony Schmitt, a local artist and chairman of the Main Street Merchants Association, welcomed K-Swiss to the neighborhood, saying its high profile will only help draw more people to the retail district, which has suffered some hard times recently because of the struggling economy.

“That is a significant asset for Main Street, to be able to offer both recognizable brands along with little mom-and-pop shops that are unique,” said Schmitt, the artist behind the Edgemar Center shopping cart Christmas tree. “Any time you have a brand come along that has a high profile, I think it just benefits everybody.”

K-Swiss opened the Main Street location last week.

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