It may have changed its venues and even its name over the years, but the LLC that exists today is still, at heart, the same company that started as The Grill Store & More in 1998. The company was founded as a brick-and-mortar store located in Baton Rouge, La., by Michael and Ladina Hackley. The seven-days-a-week operation built enough following to open a second brick and mortar store in 2000. It was the same year the company went into e-commerce with its first website,, followed by in 2001. Just like its brick and mortar stores, the websites proved a successful endeavor, so successful, in fact, that the company closed its physical locations and went strictly online in 2002. 

Shoplet1‘Our model was different than that of many online retailers,” says co-founder, CEO and President Tony Ellison of the late-1990s “Internet bubble” that saw scores of online ventures go out of business after a brief period of success. “We’ve built Shoplet brick by brick, and was never looking to get rich quick. We were turning a profit before dot-coms were in vogue starting in 1997.

“We’re not the normal story of someone having an idea and going to an IPO to raise funds; this is a private enterprise,” he adds. “Our profitability and concentration on customers is why we didn’t have the problems others had. We were growing triple digits year-over-year, and were cash flow positive, so we didn’t really have any reason to bring in money from the outside and in the process lose control of the company.”

James1Engagement and wedding rings are among the most important purchases a person will ever make. As permanent symbols of love and commitment, it’s absolutely critical that the ring more than meet its buyer’s needs. Of the many things for a buyer to consider when it comes to a ring – such as size, material or engravings – none is as important as the diamond at its literal center.

Historically, diamonds could only be closely examined inside of a jewelry store with the assistance of a jewelry loupe. Although the loupe provides a magnified view of a diamond, many nuances of the stone such as facets can still be lost.

Diamond1From time immemorial, the dream of alchemists has been to create gold from lead, or to find a goose that lays a golden egg. Gary LaCourt, founder and CEO of Diamond Nexus, has done the next best thing by creating gemstones that simulate diamonds and others that look like and are made of the same elements as rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

But how do you market against more than a century of tradition and mighty diamond cartels? “It’s hard,” LaCourt concedes, but not as hard as the surface of one of his company’s diamond simulants. Diamond Nexus has been making inroads online in the jewelry business since its founding in 2004. “We think we are the iPhone of the jewelry industry,” he says. “We offer a smart, modern and sophisticated way to buy and own fine jewelry.”

Cymax1A common retailing problem customers have is finding a seemingly simple item in the style and color they want. The search for a TV stand was the occasion for the creation of Cymax, a furniture website that carries more than 30,000 SKUs in every category of furniture in mind-boggling selection.

Combining his seven years of working at Best Buy Canada with his degree in computer science that he earned at the same time, Arash Fasihi founded the company that evolved into Cymax in 2004 while working in the software industry. “My wife and I tried to find a specific TV stand we found online in Vancouver, and we couldn’t find one,” Fasihi recalls.

Btr1It can be difficult to be fashionable while stretching a dollar, but Beyond the Rack helps women who want to achieve that goal, Chief Merchandising Officer Jim Weinberg says. “We like to say that we appeal to a typical, North American consumer that understands fashion, [but] doesn’t have the budget to afford it all the time,” he says.

“We stay true to who our core consumer is,” Weinberg continues. “We know what she likes and we try to move with her. We don’t try to appeal to too many [others].”

Vitacost1One of the reasons for the success of online retailing is the convenience factor – shoppers can find practically every kind of product at the click of a mouse and in the comfort of their own homes. For one leading online retailer, making the shopping process even easier – particularly for frequent customers – is a high priority.

“We’re working to create a seamless experience for our customers who buy large orders, across multiple categories,” says David Zucker, chief marketing officer of “We want it to be easier for people to spend part of their wallet share on consumables here at, and for that to happen, we want to create a process that feels effortless.”

Karmaloop1It has been 13 years since Greg Selkoe set up virtual shop in his parents’ basement and launched his Internet-based company, Karmaloop.  Selkoe, who had no retail or merchandising experience, wanted to offer the cutting-edge, young designers that he loved to everyone in the country. “I was really into this type of clothing and lifestyle and I noticed that if you lived in small cities – out of New York or Los Angeles – you wouldn’t have access to it,” he recalls.

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