Running a business: Zionsville-based Tux Bros a becomes a local leader in race management

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By Heather Lusk

It started with the creation of a “stair climb.”

In 1984 Don Carr and a friend wanted to create a vertical running event, coincidentally soon after Indianapolis’ tallest building at the time was completed. Carr approached the owners who were amenable to the race incorporating stairs as long as it was in conjunction with a fundraiser.

Bop to the Top was born “and the rest is history,” said Carr, president of Tuxedo Bros., the Zionsville-based event management company that plans fitness-focused and running-centric events throughout the area.

Carr has slowly built the company through the years, starting with six annual events up to 60 events last year. Most of them involve running or walking, such as 5K or 10K competitions, but they also manage marathons, triathlons and duathlons. They have managed more than 1,000 events in three decades.

The concept of Tuxedo Bros. emerged as Carr competed in running events and noticed issues.

“I had a love for running,” Carr said. “I think I felt there was a need for (an event management company) when I did other events.”

Wearing a tuxedo to several running events, Carr and a friend were dubbed the “tuxedo brothers.”

“It’s kind of a fun name,” said Carr, who decided to use it for his company.

In 1988 when Carr quit his “real job” and incorporated Tuxedo Bros., his actual brother, Phil, became his partner.

Phil Carr had just moved to town in 1988 and with a background in software engineering was able to help keep track of the timing and scoring for competitive events. Don’s younger brother took the role of head of timing and scoring and works for the company part time.

While the elder brother Carr no longer competes, he still runs Bop to the Top every year when he can squeeze in between racers. The fastest runners can run up the 780 steps in less than five minutes while the average person can run the 36 floors in 8 to 10 minutes. Runners then take the elevator back down to the lobby.

Bop to the Top takes place during the winter, when there are fewer marathons and runs. The 2016 event is set for Jan. 16 and will benefit Riley Hospital for Children. Bop to the Top has raised approximately half a million dollars over the years.

Most of their fitness events benefit charitable or service organizations. One of Tuxedo Brother’s big events is the annual Drumstick Dash that takes place on Thanksgiving Day in Broad Ripple and benefits Wheeler Mission. Twelve years ago, Carr began a 10K for Wheeler Mission with fellow runner Steve Kerr, Wheeler Mission’s chief development officer, who wanted to create a Thanksgiving morning event.

Carr wasn’t certain it would work, in particular finding enough volunteers to pull off a big running event on a holiday. Kerr wasn’t phased, reminding Carr that Wheeler’s phone rings off the hook for Thanksgiving volunteers.

“That was a great concept that really took off,” Carr said. “Everything just connected for that event.”

Drumstick Dash has expanded since its inception in 2004. Despite the increase in similar events Thanksgiving Day, he’s hopeful for Drumstick Dash’s future.

“That event has grown so much and has done such great things for Wheeler (Mission),” he said.

Approximately three quarters of their work is spearheaded by another organization, such as Komen Race for the Cure, the 500 Festival’s Mini Marathon and the Indianapolis Corporate Challenge.

“It varies from event to event how much we get involved with it,” Carr said. Sometimes they may do portions of the event such as overseeing the start time but aren’t managing the whole race.

“The other 25%, it’s our idea. We manage it. We have to do everything,” Carr said. “It’s a lot more work.” In those situations, they find volunteers as well as set the course and mile markers, set up water stations and provide course marshals who ensure runners turn at the correct location.

With a staff of two employees, Carr is content with the level of events they manage. “We’re busy as it is,” he said. “I don’t necessarily need to grow.”

“I feel bad sometimes because I know charities need the help,” he said.

UPCOMING TUX BROS. EVENTS

  • Nov. 21 – Outback Scramble, wacky 5-mile cross country run, Indianapolis
  • Nov. 26 – Drumstick Dash, 2.5 or 4.6 miles, Indianapolis
  • Nov. 28 – Pub2Pub5K, 5K run/walk, Carmel
  • Dec. 12 – Jingle Bell Run, 5K run/walk and 10K run, Indianapolis
  • Jan. 2, 2016 – Race to the New Year, 5K run/walk, Westfield
  • Jan. 16 – Bop to the Top, 36-floor stair climb, Indianapolis

Learn more or register for all events at tuxbros.com.

 

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