With a brand strong enough to inspire a novel, which inspired a movie and a Broadway musical, it’s easy to see how even 174 years after its first store was opened in New York City as a “stationary and fancy goods emporium” Tiffany & Co. remains an integral part of the retailing industry. 

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This multi-channel retailer and direct marketer of women’s apparel, shoes, and accessories got its start in a white clapboard house in Hingham, Mass. This original location continues to serve customers today, in addition to the 560-plus stores, catalogues, and e-commerce options the company provides its customers for convenience.

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Sterling Jewelers is the largest specialty fine jewelry company in the US as ranked by both sales and number of stores. UK-based Signet Jewelers acquired the company in 1987, which gave Signet its first taste of the US market.

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From the start, Saks Incorporated has focused on transforming with the times. It started with five Proffitt’s stores in Knoxville, Tenn. in 1924; added McRae’s, Parisian, Younkers, Herberger’s, and Carson Pirie Scott & Co. in the ’90s; and changed its corporate name to Saks Incorporated from Proffitt’s in 1998.

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Ross Stores, the third-largest off-price retailer in the US, started as Ross Department Store in San Bruno, Calif.



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Lloyd and Mary Anderson originally established REI as a co-op to secure reduced prices for its members. Today REI models itself as a full-service retailer (with a website, where shoppers can order and have items delivered for free to a nearby store) rather than as a low-price retailer.

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When RadioShack was formed by brothers Theodore and Milton Deutschmann, it was to provide equipment for the newly formed (in 1921) field of amateur radio (ham). They opened one store and a mail-order operation in downtown Boston and chose the name Radio Shack, referring to the small, wooden structure that housed a ship’s radio equipment.

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What started as a conversation between two former junior high school classmates on a downtown Tulsa sidewalk has evolved in the more then 50 years since to QuikTrip, a socially responsible (the company donates 5% of its annual net profit to qualified 501(c)3 agencies) c-store chain that was selected as the 34th best company to work for by Fortune this year.

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