Chris Gilchrist and his family were not strangers to Convenient Food Marts of Northeast Pennsylvania when they purchased the company in December 2012. The family had a long-established supplier relationship with Jerry Zubert, who started the 30-location franchise in 1976, as they distributed much of the fuel sold at Convenient locations.

The retail world was also not new to Gilchrist, who also helped manage and operate a truck stop and travel plaza built by his uncle William Gilchrist. Several of the Convenient locations the family took over have long histories and well-established cultures, which the Gilchrist family seeks to encourage and build upon. 

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Based in Flint, Mich., Beacon & Bridge Market operates 23 convenience store gas stations and two restaurants in small Michigan towns. “We are from here,” General Manager Bob Carpentier says. “We are a wholly owned Michigan company so we focus a lot on Michigan-made products. We have one of the largest, if not the largest, selection of products for sale made in the state of Michigan.”

This local focus has served Beacon & Bridge Market well since it was started in 1969. Bob Eastman has been the owner and CEO since the start.  

Beacon & Bridge Market emphasizes its Michigan-made inventory with interior signs. “We are known as a place the locals want to go,” Carpentier says. “We are from here so people react pretty well to our message.”

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If you live in Southern California, there’s a good chance you know Larry Miller’s face and/or voice. As chairman and CEO of mattress and furniture retailer Sit ’n Sleep, Miller has appeared in radio commercials for more than 30 years and in TV ads for more than 20 years, making catchphrases such as, “Or your mattress is free!” a part of Los Angeles pop culture. Sit ’n Sleep’s commercials have made Miller a household name in Southern California, but that would never have happened if Sit ’n Sleep wasn’t one of the best and most successful mattress retailers in the region, and Miller says the company has been focused on that from day one. 

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When the first Sam Ash Music store opened in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1924, the stock consisted mostly of the era’s most popular musical instruments: banjos and mandolins. Although the stores’ stock today is vastly different, the business philosophy and ethics established by its founders continue to live on 90 years later. 

“My grandparents believed in doing all the right things with regard to honesty, opening early and closing late, making deliveries and doing everything they could to make sure their customers were taken care of,” says COO Sammy Ash,  who was named after his grandfather, the store’s founder. “They believed in running a clean house – no lying, no cheating, no nonsense.”

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Customers know something is different about Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy as soon as they step through the doors of one of its locations. Traditional pharmacy services and products are offered alongside holistic remedies and supplements, and the staff includes not only credentialed pharmacists but also practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine such as herbalists, naturopathic doctors and chiropractors.

“Pharmaca is a unique and innovative retail concept – there’s nothing else like it in the United States today,” says Laura Coblentz, vice president of marketing and innovation for the Boulder, Colo.-based company. “This is a store that has wide appeal for consumers interested in being proactive about their health and wellness.”

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For the past 50 years, The Paper Store has nurtured a sense of community in more ways than one. With its vast array of products, ranging from jewelry to Hallmark cards to home décor, The Paper Store aims to bring friends and families closer together as they celebrate life’s moments. With the retailer being family owned and operated, this philosophy comes naturally. 

The same kinship that The Paper Store fosters between its customers is also fostered with the general public by becoming a true partner in helping its communities flourish. In addition to helping customers find the perfect gifts for loved ones, the New England-based company is a gift-giver itself. Over the years, it has partnered alongside charities such as Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund with fundraisers such as Dress for Soxcess, Strike Out Cancer and DFCI Holiday Program. With help from generous customers, The Paper Store has been honored to donate more than $700,000 to DFCI to date. 

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The lollipop is deceptively simple, but its simplicity offers a world of possibilities in terms of flavors and revenues. Perhaps no one understands this better than New Hampshire’s Original Gourmet Food Company, which for the past few years has developed the humble lollipop into a gourmet sweet treat with mass appeal. Marketing Director Angela LeBrun explains that the company’s lollipops are the key driver of the company’s success, and that has as much to do with how sweet they are for retailers as they are for consumers. 

Original Gourmet has come a long way since its inception. The company’s original focus was on seasonal gift items such as cookies and others sweets and snacks. As LeBrun explains, the company was approached by some buyers who were looking for a gourmet lollipop product, and its established distribution network made it easy for Original Gourmet to get those products into stores. Since then, the success of the company’s lollipop products has opened new channels, including convenience stores, mass-market retailers and grocery retailers. 

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In recent years, consumer demand for natural, organic and specialty foods has grown to the point where practically every major supermarket chain devotes at least one aisle to these items.

Organic, specialty and hard-to-find foods have been a major part of Mollie Stone’s Markets’ inventory since the company opened its first store in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1986. Unlike many of its competitors, Mollie Stone’s stocks these items throughout the aisles of each of its nine stores. Natural, organic and other specialty foods are often placed next to their conventional counterparts, with signage indicating how they may differ from the related items.

“We are cutting-edge and pioneers in a number of ways,” says President and CEO Mike Stone, who named the company after his late mother. “We were the first ones to really combine a conventional supermarket and a natural foods store under one roof.”

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