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By Elena Kadvany

Palo Alto's ZombieRunner stops selling running gear to focus on coffee

Uploaded: Jan 3, 2020

Palo Alto's ZombieRunner, long a draw for both running and coffee enthusiasts, has shed its dual identity. As of Jan. 1, the California Avenue business is only a coffee shop and is no longer selling running gear.

"We've been watching the coffee business grow and grow over the years," co-owner Don Lundell said. "We decided to focus all our efforts on that."

Lundell and Gillian Robinson, both ultrarunners, started ZombieRunner in 2003 as an online store. At the brick-and-mortar shop, which they opened in 2008, running shoes, hats and energy bars have always coexisted alongside espresso and chai tea.

ZombieRunner at 429 S. California Ave. in Palo Alto was a combo running store-cafe for years, but will now sell only coffee. Photo by Elena Kadvany.

While the coffee part of the business has grown in recent years, the running side was "flatter," Robinson said.

"The running industry is not seeing as much excitement as we saw in the past where there were certain movements that got more people into running, like minimalism and then maximalism," she said — whereas artisan coffee has boomed in recent years.

Going all in on coffee is also helping them focus on opening their second location in Mountain View (1980 W. El Camino Real), they said. They're hopeful it will open by the end of the month but haven't set an official date.

With room now freed up at the Palo Alto shop, they plan to reconfigure the space but haven't decided how yet. If they add more seating inside, Robinson said the goal is to do so in a way that will encourage conversation between customers rather working on laptops in isolation.

"What we don't want to see happen is that silent workplace where you walk in and feel like you're disturbing people because they're busy working," she said.

They also might eventually expand the menu — including their specialty chocolate and licorice selection — and sell coffee accessories, such as grinders.

At the new Mountain View cafe, there will be pastries from a local bakery in addition to the usual ZombieRunner coffee and tea drinks.

"We just feel like we've got people so excited about our coffee and we've got really loyal customers on that side of the business," Robinson said. "It was just time to make that change and refocus on doing what we do best."