Kristina Sumfleth | Democrat
Ridgeback Sports owners Stefanie and TJ Johnson are looking to promote a community of athletes and healthy lifestyle through their new sporting goods store in Callicoon. Everything from bikes and skateboards to apparel and fitness guidance is available at Ridgeback, located on Dorrer Drive in Callicoon.
off to a healthy start
By Kristina Sumfleth
CALLICOON August 9, 2013 The newest sports store on the block is doing more than just selling merchandise, they are offering people in the community a way to become more athletic and active.
Ridgeback Sports was opened on May 25 after an impressive ribbon cutting made by one of the store’s owners, Thelonius “TJ” Johnson. As a testament to his commitment to creating a healthy community, TJ ran 28 miles from town to town to promote the opening and used the ribbon as his finish line.
“Our main goal is to enhance the community through building a healthy lifestyle, enjoying athletics and tapping into everyone’s inner athlete,” said owners Stefanie and TJ Johnson. “We want to make it a way of life.”
Besides offering apparel, bikes, skateboards and other sports equipment, the store owners are trying to engage the community to be active. They currently offer in-store sign ups for various group activities and are hoping to expand their fitness promotion by hosting some of their own races in Sullivan County for running, walking and cycling.
“One of the great things about athletics is how it has the ability to bring people together and give a sense of community,” explained Stefanie. “While we all have our neighbors and are community driven, we also hope to create a sub-community of athletes
“There are cases in which groups of athletes can help to enhance each others’ confidence and thereby athletic ability. Simply put, it can also be more fun to go snowboarding and go to races with others. It helps motivate and excite people!”
The Johnsons do more than just encourage a healthy lifestyle they practice what they preach. Everything that Ridgeback Sports offers has been a part of their life (even their Rhodesian Ridgeback dog Distance, who inspired the store name, is a tough endurance animal).
TJ is native to Sullivan County and has been an athlete all his life participating in football, track, basketball and baseball in high school while attending Delaware Valley.
Since high school, TJ has gained certification as a personal trainer with an “A” list of clients from Anderson Cooper to Mariah Carey. He has also pursued both acting and modeling careers, scoring roles on shows including Law and Order, All My Children and One Life to Live and even appeared in an Old Spice Commercial along with gracing the cover of Maximum Fitness Magazine.
Yet amidst his busy life, TJ has continued to compete in cycling races, triathlons, marathons and snowboarding events.
“I participate in races all the time and pass along the knowledge I gain from each race,” said TJ. “I never thought I could run a marathon. Someone told me that I was too muscular and big to run a marathon. He bet me that I couldn’t do it. I signed up for one eight weeks out, lost about 20 pounds and had a very brutal race but still managed to finish sub four hours.
“I ended up running five more marathons that year and was inducted into the Marathon Maniacs Club. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an athlete inside them.”
This was even true for TJ’s wife Stefanie who was not always active. She only began to unleash her inner athlete after meeting TJ.
“I went to support him when he did his 50-mile endurance race at Bear Mountain in 2012,” remembers Stefanie. “It was then that I got drawn into the work of running and true athletics.
“I ran my first 5k after that and became addicted. That feeling of accomplishment and self-satisfaction, the ‘I just did that!’ feeling is really what keeps me running.”
After leaving the area for some time, TJ Johnson is back and wants to give all that he has learned about fitness back to the community through Ridgeback Sports. The Johnsons are looking to expand the store and include as many people as possible in building an athletic and healthy lifestyle.
“I love Sullivan County it’s my home and always will be but I never had many sport outlets as a kid so I wanted to bring a sports shop where that would be possible,” said TJ. “I’ve always said that no matter how rich or successful you might be, if you don’t have your health, you can’t enjoy life! So, let’s build a community of healthy people and set the standard for the world right here in Sullivan County. Come join the fight to be healthy and athletic!”
For more information about Ridgeback Sports visit their website at ridgebacksports.com, call (845)-887-3048 or visit the store located at 34 A Dorrer Drive in Callicoon.
What: Sporting goods store and community outlet for those seeking healthy/active lifestyle
Where: Dorrer St., Callicoon
Owners: TJ and Stefanie Johnson
Merchandise: bikes, skateboards, running shoes, apparel and more.