Wilton Burgess started his career in the grocery business as clerk, and worked his way up the ladder over the course of a 20-year career with the same store. In 1973, however, Burgess made the decision to strike out on his own and start his own operation. Today, the fruit of his labors is Quik-E Food Stores, which is one of Virginia’s most successful convenience store chains that also includes car washes and a laundromat. 

Quik-E Food Stores is a family affair, with Burgess’ three sons holding executive-level positions within the company. Over the years, the company has become known as a positive influence in the community, having raised more than $1 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in addition to other charitable efforts. Burgess says he is proud of where the company is today and sees great things for Quik-E Food Stores in the future.

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No matter what size a town is, it probably has a number of schools with teams in various sports. Serving those teams’ needs for sporting goods and those of consumers in general ahead of major national sporting goods retail chains is Olympia Sports. Store managers provide a team discount program for athletic equipment three times annually to local teams. The company’s business model has been so successful that it has been thriving for 40 years.

“Certainly, good customer service has been a pillar of our business,” Senior Director of Operations Paul Fitzpatrick says. “We’ve always tried to be a really convenient option for families to get their sporting goods, athletic apparel and footwear needs met. We are putting stores where it’s easy for people to get to and where otherwise they would have to travel to some of the bigger shopping areas.”

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Murray’s Cheese owner Rob Kaufelt wants to bring quality cheese to the masses. But for a small cheese retailer with two New York shops – one in Greenwich Village and the other in Grand Central Terminal – that dream seemed daunting. So Kaufelt turned to what has long been considered the enemy of small grocers: giant corporate supermarkets. Murray’s Cheese entered into a partnership with Kroger, one of the largest grocery store operators in the world with more than 2,500 locations, to place boutique Murray’s Cheese kiosks in Kroger supermarkets. The program started with three partner locations and has grown to nearly 200 in the past seven years.

The partnership has allowed Murray’s Cheese to retain the intimate, neighborhood feel of a mom-and-pop store while creating a national footprint. In 2015, Murray’s will have opened another 90 Kroger supermarkets, bringing the total to more than 250 locations by year-end. To make those partner locations as successful as possible, Kroger shares its extensive sales data with Murray’s, allowing these cheese specialists to customize which products are available at each store in accordance with local tastes. Kaufelt explains that data is so detailed that Murray’s Cheese management might even know more about the 187 Kroger locations than it does about its own two stores.

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When parents buy products for their babies, they expect quality, value and solutions that make the job of being a parent just a little bit easier. Munchkin’s CEO Steve Dunn, a father of two himself, has made that a mandate of Munchkin Inc. The company manufactures hundreds of products, including bottles, sippy cups and safety gates.

Dunn started Munchkin in 1992, after working in Venture capital. After his first child was born, he recalls thinking, “I was getting tired of reading other people’s business plans. When I started looking at some of the products we were buying for our daughter, I saw the opportunity to be creative and bring some much-needed freshness and innovation to several categories.”

When Dunn formed the company, “We started off with an 18,000-square-foot office and warehouse,” he recalls, noting that the company had sales of more than $15 million in 1993, with a line of licensed baby bottles shaped like soda bottles with the Pepsi®, Dr Pepper® and 7-Up® logos.

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Comfort is perhaps the single most important factor people consider when buying a piece of furniture. If a chair, sofa or bed isn’t comfortable, odds are the shopper will move on to something else. That same principle applies to furniture retailers, as well, as shoppers want to look for their new furniture in an environment that treats them fairly and makes them feel comfortable throughout the entire process. This is why Mooradians Furniture has thrived for multiple generations in the Albany, N.Y., area, according to partner and owner Bill Mooradian. 

The company roots begin with Mooradian’s grandfather, an Armenian immigrant who opened an appliance store next to his meat market after the Great Depression took hold. Mooradian says one of the company’s earliest successes was with coin-operated refrigerators, with the company collecting the coins from customers’ homes on a regular basis. Over time, the company moved from household appliances to furniture, and soon the Mooradian name became associated with high-quality furniture. 

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In today’s retail world, the customer experience is paramount. The most successful retailers organize their stores and sales efforts in a manner that creates excitement and engagement around the products they offer, instead of just placing them in a passive display against a wall or in a locked case.

As of now, “excitement” and “engagement” are typically not words that people think of when they shop for a new pair of glasses. One of the world’s leading eyewear companies wants to change that.

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In a crowded marketplace, the right culture can mean a lot for a company and its customers. That’s why Locke Supply can claim to be one of the leaders in the plumbing, electrical and HVAC distribution marketplace, according to Vice President of Operations John Orman. He says the internal culture Locke Supply has built over 60 years of serving the Southwest has translated into strong relationships with contractors, plumbers and electricians throughout the region. 

“Our culture is extremely important to us, the way we go to market,” Orman says. “We feel like that is something that sets us apart.”

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Since it was started in 1991, Lighting New York has evolved into a leading residential and commercial lighting expert in the Empire State and beyond. By combining retail showrooms in the Bowery with an extensive online presence, Lighting New York has fully embraced the omnichannel world and expanded its business well beyond its New York City origins in Manhattan’s lighting district.

“Initially, we were primarily importing product from Europe,” President Gary Fitterman says. “We differentiated ourselves because we could create value and build a big collection by directly importing merchandise. When the dollar collapsed, we moved more toward domestic and Chinese product, which again helped differentiate our offerings.”

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