Although oil and water don’t mix, Gilligan Oil Co. is profiting from coffee and gasoline, along with donuts and submarine sandwiches, which consumers seem to crave when traveling around town or on trips. The company also has vertically integrated into wholesale diesel and gasoline distribution.

“Everybody is interested in donuts and coffee, no matter where they are,” President and CEO Pat Gilligan emphasizes. “Donuts and coffee work in highway sites and in urban areas. We run about 75 percent of our Dunkin’ Donuts sales through the register by 11:30 a.m.”

Subway and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen complement coffee and donuts in the afternoon and evening day-parts at Gilligan Oil Co.’s 26 co-operated convenience stores, many of which feature at least two of the franchises. “They all are intermixed based on location and where we deem its demographics make it a good place to put one franchise or another,” COO Chris Zimmerman explains.

When people stop into a convenience store, they’re usually pressed for time, so they want to know as soon as they walk in the door that they will be able to count on an exceptional experience. That’s why Forward Corp. has such a strong advantage over other c-store chains in northeastern Michigan, according to Co-Owner and Chief Marketing Officer Emily Mallory. She says the company’s strong connection to the local community and its fifth-generation family ownership mean its customers always find what they need and feel welcomed. A recent rebranding initiative has helped to strengthen those connections even further, and should prove to be the foundation for the company’s continued success. 

Mallory and her sister, Abby Moniz, represent the fifth generation of family leadership for Forward Corp., which started with a single service station in Standish, Mich., purchased in 1925 by Austin G. Forward and a partner. By 1955, Forward’s grandsons had purchased the company, which had grown into a series of Shell service stations. The third and fourth generation of the family, led by their father Terry McTaggart, focused on modernizing the entire chain, adding new stations and food service facilities as well as diversifying into areas such as auto parts and fuel delivery services. 

Even though one’s feet are a small portion of the human anatomy, they take all of a person’s weight, especially when walking or running, and when they ache, a person feels bad all over. Nearly eight out of 10 Americans have experienced foot pain, according to a recent survey of 1,021 adults by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), and these people’s problems worsen with age. This is the market on which Foot Solutions concentrates.

“We try to focus on the baby boomer,” founder and CEO Ray Margiano says. “Most of our customers coming in are 40 and older. As a person ages, especially females – easily 65 to 70 percent of our customers are female – they start developing foot issues they never had before. That’s why we focus on that market – they have issues we can solve pretty easily.”

A true pioneer in e-commerce, Bluefly has become a leading online retailer of designer brands, fashion trends and exceptional value since it was founded in 1998. Based in New York City, Bluefly strives to offer top designer brands and fashion trends while providing value to customers along with a first-class online shopping environment.

“Bluefly was the first company to get involved with high-end fashion retailing on the Internet,” CEO Neel Grover says. “But whereas it used to operate as a fashion company that sold products on the web, we have evolved into a web company that is selling fashion.”

In the world of high-fashion retail, there are few names that carry as much weight as Saks Fifth Avenue. Whether they shop at the company’s flagship store in New York City or any of its other locations, customers flock to Saks Fifth Avenue because of its position on the cutting-edge of luxury fashion. 

One of the people in charge of keeping the store on that edge is Thomas Ott, senior vice president and general merchandise manager of menswear, home, food and gifts. Ott has been with Saks for more than 20 years, and in that time he has seen many changes to not only fashion but to the retail environment as a whole.

The Canadian optical market is fragmented, and New Look Vision Group is taking advantage of the situation. One of the fastest-growing companies in Canada’s optical retail industry, New Look Vision Group is rapidly expanding through a series of key acquisitions.

“We’re growing fairly quickly,” says Antoine Amiel, president of the Montreal-based company. New Look Vision Group had 76 stores in Quebec before making two major acquisitions in the past two years: Vogue Optical in 2013 and Greiche & Scaff the following year. Vogue Optical is the leading optical retailer in the Canadian Maritime provinces. 

Mackenthun’s Fine Foods is the oldest grocery company in the state of Minnesota and a family business in the truest sense of the phrase. The store has been passed down through five generations, beginning with President and CEO Kim Mackenthun’s great-grandfather in 1917 with a meat market. 

Kim’s father, Marvin, a World War II veteran, started the full grocery business. Marvin and his father, along with a German sausage maker who never spoke a word of English, brought recipes from Germany – the same sausage recipes that are still used in the store today. 

“We make 110 different kinds of sausage,” Kim says. “We do everything from scratch. And we still make the weird stuff the old Germans like, such as blood sausage and liver sausage. They keep coming from farther and farther away to get it because it’s tough to come by.”

After being in the fashion industry for more than 15 years, John Varvatos, acclaimed men’s fashion designer, is getting back to his roots. 

This past March, Varvatos opened a new store in Detroit, his hometown. He’s watched the city go through troubled times since he was a child in the 1960s. But he sees hope in the city, believing it will become one of the most talked-about places in the next several years thanks to urban development, opportunity and reinvention. “I see a light shining through it today,” he says.

Varvatos’s store is one of two retail shops within 15 blocks and the only fashion retail store in the downtown area. Most of the storefronts are closed, but he believes it was important to plant his flag in Detroit and be part of the upcoming turn-around. 

rmcover janfeb2016

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