Southwest GeorgiaSouthwest Georgia Oil will bring its convenience stores under one banner with the Sunstop brand. By Tim O’Connor

For the bulk of Southwest Georgia Oil’s 56-year history, it was a small collection of convenience stores and gas stations. At the beginning of 2015, the company had only 25 stores, mostly in Georgia. That began to change that year when the company found an opportunity for rapid expansion.

“About two years ago, we tripled our company overnight,” Brand Manager Spencer Thomas says. “We acquired the S&S brand out of Lake City, Fla., and acquired 44 stores.”

S&S was a perfect fit for Southwest Georgia Oil’s culture. The group of convenience store gas stations spurned offers from larger brands to seek a smaller buyer that could be more hands-on with its customers and employees. It found that ideal buyer in Southwest Georgia Oil.

Shoe MillShoe Mill aims to expand its footprint by continuing to improve the high-quality level of customer service for which it is known. By Bianca Herron

Shoe Mill is an independent, family-owned fine footwear retail company that owns and operates eight stores in the Pacific Northwest. For 39 years, the Portland, Ore.-based company has prided itself on offering customers a compelling merchandise mix and an unmatched level of caring customer service.

Today, Ed Habre, president and CEO of Shoe Mill, oversees the company with his sister Tamara St. Cyr, who serves as vice president of finance. Habre’s parents founded the company in 1978 and his four sons – Jared, Josh, Joel and Jordan Habre, along with their cousin Shane St. Cyr – are also now integral to the present and future success of the company.

“It’s a pleasure to come to work every day and not only have the opportunity to hang out with my sons, but also to watch them grow and mature in the business,” Ed Habre says. He adds that he’s most proud that his sons have earned their respective roles by merit and not because they carry the family name.

PusaterisPusateri’s open market-style stores create an indulgent shopping experience for customers. By Tim O’Connor

When a produce cooler caught fire and burned down the flagship store of upscale grocer Pusateri’s Fine Foods in 2015, it would have been easy for the Toronto-based company to scale back its plans to change how people shop for food. Instead, Pusateri’s took it as an opportunity to rebuild the store with a new design that further pushed its methods for turning grocery shopping into an exciting experience.

The shell and footprint of the rebuilt store remained the same, but Pusateri’s added demonstration kitchens and spaces for pop-up programs that can be rotated. The second floor, which was previously administrative space, was converted into a flower shop and will also eventually house a restaurant partner. When it reopened near the end of 2016, the flagship Pusateri’s went from a place where customers could buy food to one where they could fully experience it.

“We designed that store to truly have the best of the world,” says Angus McOuat, vice president of merchandising and marketing.

Checkout Food StoresCheckout Food Stores adds an element of luxury to its convenience stores. By Chris Kelsch

Due to the growing business of convenience stores, it can be difficult for stores to differentiate themselves from one another. They all essentially offer the same products and aside from the customers preference of gasoline, it is hard to imagine having an affinity for one store over another.

Checkout Food Stores, a growing brand of convenience stores, does not subscribe to that notion. They believe that consumers actually do have preferences and are focused on catering to those preferences. Salman Iqbal had started as a store manager in the late 1990s but throughout the years he has built and developed the Houston-based company, and is now the Vice President of Checkoutout Food Stores. “Back then, we only had three stores,” Iqbal recalls. “But over time I moved up with the company, and we started acquiring more stores.”

HortonHorton & Converse Pharmacies celebrates its 100th anniversary and expands its medical supplies business. By Kat Zeman

It’s a family affair. Keith Lumpkin and his family have been in the pharmacy business for decades. Both his mother and father were in it. Now his son and daughter are a part of it.

“My family has been involved since the 1970s,” says Lumpkin, who has been president of Newport Beach, Calif.-based Horton & Converse Pharmacies for more than 20 years.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Horton & Converse is a family-owned and operated professional pharmacy chain with five locations near various prominent medical buildings throughout the Los Angeles area. This includes locations adjacent to major hospitals such as St. John’s in Santa Monica and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

DorignacDorignac’s Food Center remains a vital part of its community by knowing and responding to its customers’ needs. By Jim Harris

Dorignac’s Food Center focus on customer service has allowed it to endure for 70 years. “We have a much different store atmosphere than what you’ll find anywhere else,” President Ronald Dawson, Jr., says. “We employ all local people, so many of our customers know the butcher, produce manager and others here, and we go out of our way to help them select and prepare an item. When you’re in our store, you’ll see your neighbors working and shopping here.”

All of the checkout counters of the Metairie, La., store are staffed with a cashier as well as a bagger who often takes groceries to customers’ cars. Staff members also frequently recommend products. “We go above and beyond to make sure our customers are treated properly,” Dawson says.

WSSShoe retailer WSS focuses on engaging its Spanish-speaking customers through neighborhood stores and omnichannel flexibility. By Tim O’Connor

Shoe retailer WSS has experienced 30-plus years of steady growth by adhering to its motto of “best values always.” However, Vice President Bruce Fendell says the idea of value is not limited to cost consciousness. “Value represents a whole lot of things to a whole lot of different people,” he explains.

WSS’s success has been due to its ability to recognize and deliver on those differing views of value. For some, it’s an affordable running shoe while for others it could be having the latest high-end Air Jordan sneaker launch in stock. “Selection is also one of our selling points,” Fendell says. “We have every style our customers wants to get.”

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Family PharmacyFamily Pharmacy celebrates 40 years of success by incorporating the latest technology while never losing sight of being the place where everyone knows your name and treats you like family. By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Lynn Morris decided in third grade he wanted to be a pharmacist and from then on, every decision he made was geared toward achieving that goal. After graduating from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Morris’s entire professional life was structured around owning his own pharmacy, which in 1977 became Family Pharmacy.

“My wife, Janet, and I opened Family Pharmacy on August, 20, 1977 and filled 12 prescriptions the first day,” Morris remembers. “Last year, we filled 1.4 million prescriptions in our 24 retail stores, our three closed-shop pharmacies, and our specialty pharmacy.”

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the Ozark, Mo.-based company attributes its success to remaining a family owned and Christian-driven business that values innovation and customer service. Lynn and Janet’s three children work in different areas of the business. Daughter Mandy Morris is vice president and director of marketing. Their son, Justin Sanders, is the director of information technology and their daughter, Melissa Sanders, is district manager for Home Medical Services.

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