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A diverse range of lawn and garden products have made Strader’s Garden Centers the go-to retailer in Columbus, Ohio.

By Tim O’Connor

Alfred Barnett worked part-time for Columbus, Ohio’s Strader’s Garden Centers in the mid-1960s when we joined the military. He didn’t return to Ohio until 1968, but left enough of an impression from his time with the company that owner Jack Strader called him up to ask Barnett to come back to work full time.

In the 48 years since, Barnett, now the general manager, has seen Strader’s grow from a company with two small garden centers to a major player in the Columbus garden market. The business now operates two wholesale centers and six large stores whose 300-vehicle parking lots are still not large enough to handle the massive numbers of weekend customers.

Jack and Ruth Strader founded their namesake garden center business in 1956. Strader’s remains a family business even after 60 years. Each of the couple’s four children have been a part of the company as it has grown throughout central Ohio – a sign of its longevity and roots in the community.


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Burns’ Family Neighborhood Markets opens three new locations this year to continue meeting its customers’ demands.

By Janice Hoppe

Patrick Burns, president and CEO of Burns’ Family Neighborhood Markets, has had a lifelong passion for the supermarket industry. His dedication shows as his markets are welcomed with open arms by their communities. The company prides itself on this acceptance, which is achieved through steady growth. “There’s no goal that I have to open one, two or three stores per year,” Burns says. “It has to make sense, fit our culture, the community and our company.”

Burns and his late partner, Michael Rinnier, developed The Fresh Grocer brand in 1996. In 2013, Burns became the 50th member of the Wakefern Food Corp, one of the largest retailer-owned cooperatives in the United States. “I joined Wakefern as their 50th member and brought The Fresh Grocer brand to the cooperative,” Burns says. “The Fresh Grocer is owned by Wakefern and now any one of the members can open one.”

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Jimmy G’s convenience stores don’t just sell gasoline and merchandise – they give a smile away every day.

When Jimmy “G” Garrell says he operates convenience stores, he means it – customers don’t even have to get out of their cars. Several of Jimmy G’s convenience stores have drive-up windows where employees will bring customers’ purchases to the window. One store even has two such windows, or what Jimmy G calls a double drive-up. One store only operates through the window – customers cannot enter the store but they can walk or drive up to the window and receive service.

Customers and employees both benefit from the drive-up windows, maintains Garrell, president of Jimmy G Stores Inc. As anyone with small children knows, getting them out of a car and into a store can be a major operation. But with the drive-up window, an employee can get all of the parent’s convenience store purchases and bring them to the window for her while the children sleep peacefully in their car seats in the back.

Drive-up windows also have advantages for employees. “We found that putting employees in a drive-thru is safer,” Garrell declares. “We have   an advantage of getting good employees by doing that. The customers don’t have to get out and our employees are inside. It’s a little safer situation.”

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United Refining Company and its Kwik Fill branded gasoline outlets and convenience stores illustrate how independent companies can compete against industry giants.

By Eric Slack

Founded in 1902 in the cradle of the world petroleum industry, United Refining Company still stands out for its many years of successful operations as an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products. Since the 1980s, the organization has also flourished through the expansion of its network of 282 Kwik Fill and Red Apple convenience stores and the acquisition of 75 Country Fair locations that are located in New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Today, United Refining owns and operates a modern, fully equipped refinery in northwestern Pennsylvania that produces a full range of petroleum products. They include unleaded, midgrade and premium gasoline, Kerosene, premium diesel, No. 2 home heating oil, industrial fuels, liquefied petroleum gas, propane and several grades of asphalts.

Operating 24 hours per day and seven days a week, the refinery averages up to 70,000 barrels of crude per day through its Warren, Pa refinery. United’s retail, wholesale and asphalt marketing teams promote the products in the company’s market area, and the efforts of its teams - combined with its diverse modern refinery - has the company positioned as a leading energy provider.


Tom James fits and manufactures custom high-quality suits by coming to its customers and providing excellent customer service.

By Stephanie Crets

Finding the perfect suit can be a daunting task with so many different types of fits, brands and stores to visit. And shopping in of itself can be an exhausting chore that takes too much time and effort. But Tom James wants to make it easier than ever by offering high-quality, made-to-measure suits. And the best part? “We come to you,” CEO Todd Browne says. “When we offer the best-quality product for your price range and service at a high level, a mutual respect develops.”

The 50-year-old company founded in 1966 wants to eliminate the part of the process where the customers feel like they’re fending for themselves in a retail store. “It’s a constantly revolving door with sales professionals in the retail environment, but 50 percent of our salesforce has been here for seven-plus years,” Browne says. “When you can develop a relationship with someone, someone you’re going to invest a lot of money in clothing with over the years, you can trust their guidance and perspective and focus on what you do best. We come to you, save you a lot of time and it’s a trusting relationship.”


Shiekh Shoes is focused on knowing the minds of its target customers and putting the physical and virtual assets in place to reach them.

By Eric Slack

Based in Ontario, Calif., Shiekh Shoes has carved out a strong niche for itself as a footwear and apparel retailer. Founded by Shiekh Ellahi in 1991, the company now operates more than 130 stores throughout the West Coast and Southwest. Currently, Shiekh Shoes is working on ways to make the most of its brick-and-mortar and e-commerce footprint.

“The company has created a strong business by building ties to loyal consumers,” President Matt Fine says. “Now we are working on redefining the business and building the infrastructure to support future growth.”


Leveraging technology and providing support to franchisees help Great Clips provide hair care services across North America.

By Eric Slack

Headquartered in Minneapolis and approaching 4,000 locations across the United States and Canada, Great Clips is the world’s leading hair salon brand. The company’s growth has come about thanks to its ability to provide consumers with high-quality/low-cost hair care while providing a low-cost/high-growth opportunity to franchisees.

“Our franchising program is a strength that helped us to grow, and we’ve seen very consistent growth,” CEO Rhoda Olsen says. “We’ve averaged an addition of around 200 salons each year over the last 10 to 12 years. This year, we will reach our 47th consecutive quarter of same-salon sales increases after having hit our 43rd consecutive quarter of same-salon customer growth.”

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