Boulder Running Co.'s baton has been passed.

Gart Companies, a Denver-based firm with sporting goods roots stretching back 85 years, announced Monday that its Running Specialty Group division acquired the Boulder-bred running retail company.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

As a result of the deal, Boulder Running Co.'s three Colorado stores -- 2775 Pearl St., Boulder, as well as locations in Littleton and Colorado Springs -- will join Running Specialty Group, which was formed last year through a partnership between Gart Capital Partners and Finish Line.

Gart Companies intends to keep the Boulder Running Co. name and is eyeing expanding the brand in Denver and potentially other markets outside of Colorado.

The decision to sell was not made lightly, said Johnny Halberstadt, who founded Boulder Running Co. in 1996 with fellow South African runner Mark Plaatjes.

"It's all about the soul of the business," Halberstadt said.

Noting that Boulder Running Co.'s operating entity is Boulder's Heart & Sole Inc., Halberstadt said soul, heart and culture were intended to be the business' backbone from Day 1.

In addition to developing a well-known brand in the specialty running industry, the two remained committed to causes and the Boulder community as a whole, he said.

"We've put our passion into it, and that's why the business is where it is," Halberstadt said. "We've got such great people, and we were really looking to take this thing to the next level."

Running Specialty Group has the resources and expertise to do so, he said.

Halberstadt plans to serve as a consultant for the next year. Plaatjes will continue to serve as a manager at the Boulder location.

Plaatjes also will continue to run In Motion Rehabilitation, a physical therapy facility located in the Boulder and Littleton stores. In Motion Rehabilitation, a separate entity owned by Plaatjes, was not included in the acquisition of Boulder Running Co.

The presence of Plaatjes and Boulder Running Co.'s 60 employees -- some of whom have been there since the beginning -- will allow for the culture to continue to thrive, Halberstadt said.

"You've got to have the vibe. You've got to have the soul," he said.

In addition to maintaining the Boulder Running Co. name, little change should come to the service model and the retailer's commitment to community events, said Chris Brown, principal of Gart Companies.

"Hopefully the in-store experience continues to get better and better as we leverage the systems, resources and talent we have in place as a larger organization," Brown said.

With the addition of Boulder Running Co.'s three Colorado shops, Running Specialty Group now oversees 38 specialty running stores across the country.

Each small shop or chain that has been acquired has maintained its name and operating culture, Brown said.

That track record and approach gave Halberstadt confidence that he was putting his business in "great hands," he said.

"This isn't going to be some no-name big-box chain; that is the last thing they would do," Halberstadt said. "That would be like taking a jewel and treating it like a piece of glass. It's not going to happen."