With 32 years of business under its belt, Market Basket Food Stores knows a thing or two about managing successful supermarkets and convenience stores. Its stores – two supermarkets and 20 convenience stores – are located throughout seven different North Carolina counties, all within a 200-mile radius, making it easy for Steve Hunt, vice president of Market Basket, to get to any store whenever he’s needed. 

He joined Market Basket in June 1984 when the company, run by his father, R.D. Hunt, was only in the grocery business with a country store and a supermarket. Soon his father purchased a convenience store and Hunt describes it as a time when he and his father, the president of Market Basket, “didn’t know what the heck we were doing. We just had a country store that offered gasoline.” 

The father/son business partners then bought several QuickStop convenience store locations to grow this new business venture in a very strategic, concentrated area. To this day, the two take a hands-on management approach and visit every store whenever necessary instead of relying completely on one manager at each location. 

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Founded in 1915, Kimbrell’s Furniture says it is one of the largest and oldest furniture stores in the Carolinas. Among the many reasons for its success is the company’s in-store credit. “Credit has always been part of our store,” President and CEO Ken Thornburg emphasizes. “We have a large portfolio of in-house account receivables. We make individual credit decisions in all 49 locations and also go about the collection of those account receivables in those locations. There’s no central credit office.”

Kimbrell’s Furniture sells furniture, mattresses, appliances and consumer electronics at its 48 store locations in North and South Carolina plus one over the border in Elberton, Ga., as well as its exchange location in Sumter, S.C., where merchandise that has been damaged or returned is sold at a discount.

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Being a 140-year-old company has its benefits. Just ask J.W. Pepper, which has been delivering music since 1876. Today, J.W. Pepper is the go-to sheet music store for band, orchestra and choral music, piano sheet music, worship songs, songbooks and more. 

“While we’re not lost in the past, we have a tremendous appreciation for those who worked here before us,” President and CEO Glenn Burtch says. “The company archive is a history of American music from shortly after the Civil War through today. Historians use our catalogs for research. We celebrate that history with artwork and instrument displays, but of course it’s our job to make sure we’re here for another 140 years.”

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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.

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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. 

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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.”

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Even seemingly small improvements can have a huge impact on the look of a shop. When Missouri’s Break Time convenience stores began remodeling its older locations last year, the changes were mostly modest. The company installed new coffee equipment and expanded fountains for soft drinks, updated interior graphics and better utilized floor space to make it more open. Although the store structures were mostly untouched, the improvements had an immediate effect on customers. 

“It makes a definite impact when you walk in,” says Curtis Chaney, senior vice president of retail. “A lot of customers think we’ve actually made the store larger just because of the changes we’ve made.”

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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.”

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