BUCKTOWN — Just in time for next week's Chicago Marathon, the athletic shoe behemoth Nike plans to open a running concept store Saturday on Damen Avenue, about one block north of Wicker Park's busy Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection.
The eighth of its kind in the nation, the store specializes in running shoes and services and brings 40 part- and full-time jobs to the neighborhood, a spokeswoman said.
Located on a stretch of street that is technically Wicker Park but to which Bucktown has laid claim, Nike Running at 1640 N. Damen Ave. is scheduled to open at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The shop is advertising a 6:30 p.m. Friday 5K run in its window.
At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the store will host a kids' run at Churchill Park, 1825 N. Damen Ave., followed by an opening weekend party in the store from noon to 3 p.m. with DJs, local bands and the Southern Mac and Cheese Food Truck.
There are two other Nike stores in Chicago, a "brand store" at 669 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile and a "concept store" that opened in January at 833 W. Armitage Ave. in Lincoln Park and specializes in womens' fitness and training.
A spokeswoman said Thursday that "Nike Running" chose to make its first entry into the Chicago market in Bucktown because "Bucktown has a lot of runners."
To honor Windy City runners, the footwear company has designed a new show: the LunarGlide Chicago edition, which will cost $150 and be available for sale within the next few weeks.
The red shoe has a sock liner/sole imprinted with the date of the Chicago Marathon, 10-13-2013; the four stars from the Chicago flag appear along the shoe's tongue, too.
The 3,000-square-foot store sells reflective jackets that glow at night, shorts, shirts, socks, bras and other items for men and women in addition to several styles of shoes.
The store offers "digital gait analysis" as well as a treadmill, so shoppers can test out shoes before buying them.
Additionally, runners can charge their "NikeFuel" electronic bracelets and track progress at a station in the back of the store that eventually will display a "heat map" so bracelet wearers can compare results and compete with each other.
The store replaces Cans Bar, which closed in February.
In August, an ad promoting the new shop featured the phrase "We Run Bucktown," which angered some residents and prompted a tagger to spray over the word "We."
A sign installed in front of the store reads "Nike Running" and not "Nike Running Bucktown."
Jim Beeman, general manager of the Nike Central Region, announced Thursday that Nike Running will make a $13,100 donation to Girls on the Run Chicago and a similar donation to Chicago Run as part of its entry into Bucktown.
To further its community efforts, Nike Running plans to host weekly 5K runs at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and those who really want to make an imprint can staple their race-day bibs to the store's rafters.
Pilsen artist Hebru Brantley was commissioned by Nike a create a mural on the southern wall of the store's building facing Concord Place, a small side street off Damen.
The 31-year-old Brantley, who was at the unveiling of the mural Thursday, said if the walls gets tagged, "It's all part of the game."
"I hope I have enough clout within the graffiti [artist] community, but... we'll see," Brantley told a reporter after a question-and-answer session about his mural, which uses variations of a character Brantley calls "Flyboy."
"I create the flyboy character out of a need to have heroes of color, whether black, Asian, or White, European," Brantley said.
While the artist usually depicts his characters flying, Brantley said this is "the first time flyboys are running."
"They are running onto the [Nike] store," Brantley joked.
The artist wore a gray pair of LunarGlide's from Nike's Flashback series.