Cities are the sum of their parts, large communities built up by the many smaller communities of people who call a place home, and Ridgeland is no different. One of these such communities in Ridgeland is its flourishing fitness community, which is able to thrive because of both convenient access to various trails and gyms in the city as well as the passion of individuals helping to build the community. Two of these such individuals are the current owners of Fleet Feet Jackson, Lesley and Matthew Holleman.
With a background in exercise science, it makes sense that Lesley gravitated toward the running world. After graduating from Delta State, she came to Ridgeland to work at Fleet Feet for the store’s original owner, Jeff Wells. “It started as something to do while I figured out what I wanted to do,” says Lesley. “I quickly learned that is was so much more for me!”
Lesley took over running the business in 2006 when Jeff moved away, then began a program to buy the store in 2008. By January of 2011, Lesley officially became the owner of Fleet Feet.
Matthew found Fleet Feet slightly more serendipitously. He always knew he wanted to be in the business world but wasn’t sure where he wanted to focus his career. He earned a bachelor’s degree in general business and worked in sales for almost twelve years, gaining an appreciation for good customer service and quality management skills.
Throughout all of this, Matthew remained active in the running community. “I grew up running for punishment,” he admits, “But after I ran with the no boundaries training and speed training, I started to love running as I never thought I would.” Naturally he found his way to Fleet Feet and, consequently, to Lesley. They met at Lesley’s first Pub Run organizational meeting, and Matthew was immediately interested in her and her love of running.
The rest is history. The Hollemans are now married and have two sons, and they are continuing to foster the growth of Ridgeland’s running community through their work at Fleet Feet. “Lesley has surrounded herself over the years with good people, and those people attract more good people, and that’s how things grow,” says Matthew.
This community of runners wasn’t created overnight. Lesley admits that the store’s first group run had only one participant, but it quickly grew. “We worked hard to make it more about friends, having fun and including everyone than about who was the fastest,” she says.
This atmosphere of inclusivity remains the cornerstone of Lesley and Matthew’s philosophy. Even just a quick look at the tag #fleetfeetfam on Instagram and Facebook shows how diverse and tightly knit the Ridgeland running community is and how much running has done for Ridgeland’s community as a whole.
For those “outsiders” looking to get involved with the running community, Matthew’s advice is “don’t be scared.” And, according to Lesley, “EVERYONE is welcome! If you are moving forward, you are ‘one of us.’”