The owner of True Grit running smiles at the camera smiling. The overlay has the True Grit logo, and “JUNK Retailer Highlight”

Retailer Highlight | True Grit Running Company

Melissa Vitale was working in the back room of her running store, True Grit Running Co., when an employee, Drew, came running back to report that a car had just crashed through her store. This particular employee was a classic jokester, so even as she walked through the doors, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  

True Grit Accident Damage

In all the chaos, Melissa thought to herself, there’s no way we will ever recover from this 

Overcoming Adversity 

Melissa’s employees, friends and family of her employees, people from her church who happened to be in the area when the accident happened came together to help. They swept up glass, moved broken displays and mannequins, and boxed up a jumble of items to be organized later. 

The first responders got the car out and cleared the structure as safe. Drew did let the first responders know about their 10% discount to all first responders (some of them did come back).  

They cleaned up what they could and brought all the inventory to their back room. Despite what seemed like an explosion of products and damage in the front of the store, they were surprised to find that only four items were lost in the destruction. Arkansas Glass & Mirror came to board up the front and see what glass could be salvaged and what needed replacing. After a call to the police to ask for an extra patrol in the area and making sure she didn’t need to sleep there, Melissa headed home.  

They had already planned a sale, so when they came in the next day, they made a plan to move it ahead for a “Doorbuster” Sale as soon as they reopened.  

They were a little more surprised when the glass company was able to repair the doors in just a few days. The accident occurred on April 18, and they had their re-opening sale on April 20.  

The Team and The Door Buster Sale

The Importance of Community 

They did over two weeks of sales in one weekend.  

People came in and had no idea about the accident or came in because they were curious. The engagement and comments on social were overwhelming.

Melissa’s knee replacement in October had kept her a bit farther from the running community than she had hoped and her decline in the last few years made her feel far from them.  

Melissa started True Grit Running Company because there wasn’t anything like it in Ft. Smith. She had to drive to Northwest Arkansas to get her first pair of running shoes. She became heavily involved with Women Run Arkansas, a free ten-week run clinic statewide to help women learn to run 5Ks. She started as a participant, to a group leader, to director. She grew in a community to 400 or 500 women. 

Before she opened her store she went to race expos and got to meet new people.  

The runners Melissa met through Women Run Arkansas and Western Arkansas Runners were still engaging and coming in and supporting her store.  


True Grit’s Mission 

True Grit Running Co.’s mission is to passionately promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Melissa encourages people who are not active or don’t think they can be active.  

There are student athletes and pro athletes with those descriptive adjectives, rarely do people simply describe themselves as an athlete.  And they don't treat themselves that way. People don’t treat themselves that way.  

Just because people aren’t first, they think they aren’t fast enough, or too old. Running is for all ages, it’s for everyone.  


 They keep going. True Grit is a way to describe Ft. Smith without actually saying it, and it describes runners in general. Runners have more grit than a lot of people. They keep trucking along no matter what comes through the door.

She wanted to give a shoutout to her employees. “It says a lot about who they are and their families and friends. They all had other plans but they showed up to help. I didn’t have to say anything or offer, and they all said, who can I call how can I help. I am blessed to have each of them be a part of this.” 


Follow True Grit Running Company and @JUNKBrands, and stay tuned for more from JUNK! 



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