Like most establishments, The Linn Companies started out slow and steady. Standard Oil, now known as BP, handed the keys to one of its stations to its manager, Clarence Linn, in 1964. The trusted former employee became a business owner and, in 1972, Standard Oil offered him ownership of another station. The success of the two Minnesota stations set Linn Companies up for significant growth, and in the ’80s and ’90s the company began diversifying into other channels related to the automotive market. 

Read more: The Linn Companies

“We look for associates who have a passion for serving customers,” says Mark Hasting, COO of the West Des Moines, Iowa-based company. “We hope that they’ll connect with our customers and get to know their favorite brands and buying habits.”

This sort of relationship building is enhanced by the physical design of each new store, as checkout counters are placed at the front of every 5,000-square-foot model, making it easy for employees to greet customers as they walk in. “Our associates enjoy building relationships with customers because, in many cases, they’re seeing the same person multiple times a week,” he adds. “Kum & Go is often a part of our customer’s daily routine, so we want them to feel like a special guest in our store.”

Read more: Kum & Go

After a short ride on America’s highways, it becomes obvious that there is no such thing as a “typical” motorcyclist. The estimated 85 percent of motorcyclists that take to the streets ride big v-twins, nimble sport bikes, or fully decked-out touring machines all with their own styles. Even the remaining 15 percent that take their machines off-road have unique needs, whether they are going trail-riding or heading to a motocross track.

Cycle Gear has been around helping the motorcycle enthusiast select parts and apparel since 1974, and Cycle Gear CEO Dave Bertram insists that the business is anything but mainstream. “We don’t really single out any one type of rider,” he explains. “We’re a family store, and we’ve got a lot of great customers that ride all types of motorcycles.” 

Read more: Cycle Gear

One of the hottest trends in the retail foodservice industry right now, ironically, involves a cold treat. The rise of self-service frozen yogurt has been one of the most interesting stories to emerge in recent years, and between the established names and the mom-and-pop operations there are plenty of concepts all jostling for attention. 

Read more: 16 Handles

The stories are legion. Soldiers digging foxholes with their Swiss Army knives to save themselves, fishermen in the ocean untangling themselves from their nets with a timely cut of their Victorinox Swiss Army knives or even business presentation equipment being kept dry in a disaster by Victorinox Swiss Army luggage.

Those kinds of stories and that kind of brand loyalty cannot be bought. “These are the stories we hear more and more frequently as we open more stores and the consumers engage with us on that level,” relates Jason Gallen, senior vice president, of direct to consumer and retail development. “Stories like this you don’t get from a typical brand.”

Read more: Victorinox Swiss Army Inc.

Spiegel was founded as an American furniture company in 1865 and transitioned into a fashion retailer that began selling women’s clothing in 1912. Through newfound independence gained during the suffrage movement that continued into the 1920s and the working women’s revolution of the 1970s, Spiegel brought class to mass with its catalog, found in millions of households throughout the country – unifying women’s fashion from coast to coast. 

Read more: Spiegel

Since it was founded in 1984, Shoe Sensation has focused on bringing well-known, branded footwear and accessories to residents of small-town America who otherwise would have to drive up to 45 minutes for a simple shoe shopping excursion. The markets may be small, but there is still profit to be made while serving a real need. After all, residents of these small cities have to purchase their footwear from somewhere and Shoe Sensation wants to be their first choice. 

“Shoe Sensation was founded by an entrepreneur whose vision was to open stores in small-town America where the county seat was located typically somewhere between 30 to 45 miles away from a regional mall,” CEO Mike Zawoysky says. “He wanted to make it more convenient for the local community to come in and purchase branded high-quality footwear. At the time, many family-owned shoe stores in small-town America were closing.”

Read more: Shoe Sensation

In the world of high-end fashion, the marketplace is constantly changing due to the nature of the industry and adjustments retailers must make to cater to the latest trends in consumer demands. 

For Patrick James, Purveyor to Gentlemen – an upscale men’s clothing retailer launched in Fresno, Calif., more than 50 years ago – evolving with styles as they come and go has been pertinent, but maintaining its workforce is what has made the company a success for this long, according to founder Patrick James Mon Pere.

Read more: Patrick James Inc.