Oka-B was founded on the principle that fashion and comfort should never be mutually exclusive. Delivering on its promise to offer fashionable yet comfortable shoes and sandals, the company has been able to expand its line and develop a loyal customer base over the past 10 years.  

The Budford, Ga.-based company was founded in 2005 and began by making comfortable footwear for the spa and resort market. Oka-B started with two basic styles – a slide and a thong, which are designed to feel like a spa shoe by integrating the principles of reflexology and ergonomics. “We were selling to spas and had a great response,” Director of Sales, Spa/Resort Market Kara Conrad says. “The spas and resorts wanted to start to sell the shoes in their boutiques, so we had the idea to start embellishing the sandal design and launched Oka-B as a fashion sandal.” 

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Originally founded in 1982 as Pro’s Ranch Market, the Phoenix-based grocery chain has received a new lease on life after being purchased by a joint venture of Cardenas Markets and Northgate Gonzalez Markets. The 11 former Pro’s Ranch Market locations throughout the Southwest were rebranded last year as Los Altos Ranch Market. The connection to two of the leading Latino supermarket chains in the western United States not only allows Los Altos Ranch Market to maintain strong ties to the Latino community in the Southwest, but also gives it the stability to continue serving its customers for a long time to come. 

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The key to Kid City’s success is that the children’s apparel and accessories retailer knows exactly what it is and exactly what it is not. The family owned company opened shop in the late 1950s with one store, selling children’s clothes, accessories and baby furniture for children from newborn to size 14. From then to now, its mission has been the same: to sell valued products at prices that make its customers smile. 

The company does that by combining the best techniques from local and national retailers and improving upon them. Although Kid City is a small, regional chain – at the moment – it thinks like a big player by making large volume purchases. It can also take advantage of local opportunities, such as purchasing closeouts. CEO of Kid City Jack Shamosh says the goal is to buy bigger volumes than the local competition and work sharper than the bigger chains.

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Who doesn’t love a good cookie? Alabama’s The Cookie Place Inc. has grown into the largest Great American Cookie franchise in the country because it knows how to provide customers with quality food and exceptional customer service.

Led by CEO Jeff Pizitz, the company has 55 stores open and operating today with a diverse geographic footprint that extends from Florida up to North Carolina and as far west as Oklahoma. It currently has another 10 stores on the drawing board and expects to open about 75 percent of those stores this year.

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The Topps Company has long been known as one of the premier producers of baseball cards, but 30 years ago kids would have been just as likely to sit around trading cards featuring “Messie Tessie” or “Adam Bomb” as they would any of the major baseball heroes of the time. That’s because 1985 was the year Topps introduced the Garbage Pail Kids sticker cards, creating a phenomenon that disgusted parents, outraged teachers and – most importantly – thrilled children around the world. The cards and stickers were a major hit on with kids almost immediately, and eventually Topps produced more than a dozen series of cards. Garbage Pail Kids even made the jump into international markets, becoming incredibly popular in Europe, Latin America, Israel and Australia. Topps ceased production of Garbage Pail Kids cards and stickers after 1988, but their popularity has kept them in the public consciousness ever since.

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The success of the “Dumb Ways to Die” franchise could be used as a case study in irony. A public service announcement that manages to be cool? Animated short videos that show silly characters meeting unfortunate and absurd fates and yet effectively promoting safety? A program made to benefit the general public that turns into a commercial success? These things should not happen, and yet, they have. 

“Dumb Ways to Die” was conceived by McCann Erickson Melbourne on behalf of their Australian client Metro Trains Melbourne. McCann created short videos showing animated characters clumsily dying because of shortsighted decisions – getting toast out of the toaster using a fork, poking a grizzly bear with a stick, dressing up as a moose during hunting season and so on, all to the lyrics of a sing-songy tune. The last three examples show different characters making unwise decisions at train stations – standing too close to the tracks, going around gate crossings as a train approaches, and walking across the tracks. And at the end, a plea from Metro to “Be Safe Around Trains.” 

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In today’s competitive petroleum and convenience store marketplace, offering fuel, snacks and beverages alone is no longer enough for stores to keep customers coming through the doors. “Stores now have to have a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Subway, a car wash and ATMs in addition to gas and diesel. Real estate needs to be utilized down to every square foot,” says Pat O’Connell, vice president of operations of Massachusetts-based Energy North Group (ENG).

As an operator of 30 convenience store locations and distributor to hundreds of wholesale customers in the New England and upstate New York region, ENG ensures that the stores it serves can keep up in a rapidly consolidating market. “We try to share the programs that make our retail locations successful with our wholesale customers,” O’Connell says. “Our belief is that if we can give them the tools to make them better, they will thrive in business and succeed going forward.”

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For 65 years, EbLens has evolved with its industry, but its values have always stayed constant, President Richard Seaman says. “Our main goal is to give the customer the right product in a fantastic shopping environment.”

Based in Torrington, Conn., EbLens operates 38 stores that offer clothing and footwear from active brands such as Nike, Jordan, adidas and New Era fused with lifestyle products from Timberland, LRG, Smoke Rise and Soho Babe. The company’s history goes back to 1949, when friends Ebner “Eb” Glooskin and Leonard “Len” Seaman opened EbLens Workingman Store in downtown New Britain, Conn.

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