Some people find their work monotonous, but not Wade Pearson, the president of Home of Economy. “Retail is great,” he declares. “There’s always something different to work on.”

Based in Grand Forks, N.D., Home of Economy operates five stores in its home state that sell farm and plumbing supplies, auto parts, sporting goods, housewares and toys. Pearson’s grandparents, Bob and Jean Kiesau, founded the company in Thief River Falls, Minn., in 1939.

Initially, Home of Economy operated as a wholesale business, as Bob Kiesau recapped used tires at night and sold them during the day. Over the years, the Kiesaus turned it into an auto parts store, Pearson says.

Designing stylish handbags and wallets, crafted with high-quality leathers and thoughtful details has always been the primary mission at Hobo The Original. “We create stylish solutions for everyday journeys,’” Chief Visionary Officer Koren Ray says. “Our heritage-hip designs offer purposeful fashion that allows every woman to express her individual style.” 

The Annapolis, Md.- based company was founded by Ray’s mother, Toni Ray, in 1991. Before Hobo, Toni Ray had established a chain of retail stores in Washington, D.C. that crafted handmade sandals and leather goods. At the age of 50, Toni became unemployed and decided to use her expertise in leather to make real handbags that worked for real women. “She believed that quality leather and cool never went out of style,” her daughter says. 

Among all of the competition from grocery stores in Southern California that keep Gelson’s Markets on its toes, the one chain it has to keep its eye on the most is itself. With 18 stores across Southern California, Gelson’s has built a reputation of quality and continues to raise the bar with the freshest food and concepts. That commitment has continued to attract discerning shoppers who expect the best every time they shop at Gelson’s. 

“Based on our history and commitment to service and quality, our customers hold a high level of expectation of us – a very high level,” President and CEO Rob McDougall explains. “Our challenge is that we never want to disappoint the customer. The good part is that because of that our customers are very loyal. When the recession came, we took a hit but we didn’t take the same size of hit that other high-end companies did. We’re very connected to our communities.”

The past five years have been banner ones for Coca-Cola retail licensing. The licensing arm of the world’s largest beverage company sustained double-digit annual sales growth during that period – including a 12 percent jump to $1.3 billion in sales this past year. More than 500 million Coca-Cola brand products are now purchased annually.

“The licensing business has nearly tripled in that time,” says Kate Dwyer, group director of Coca-Cola’s worldwide licensing. “Strong partnerships and geographic expansion have been the strongest contributors to that growth.”

When drivers stop to gas up their cars, they often also grab something to eat. That’s why gas stations have long offered some kind of prepared edible fare — such as hot dogs, pizza and deli sandwiches — as well as all kinds of snacks and candy. Sometimes, though, drivers want a more substantial meal, on the go or seated at a table, and fast-food restaurants have clustered around gas stations at road junctions to take advantage of that demand.

Putting fast-food restaurants inside gas station convenience stores was a natural evolution, but it only happened in the past 20 years or so, because there was an inherent perception problem: People didn’t want to eat a real meal that came from a gas station.

The uber-competitive grocery industry keeps evolving rapidly, as established chains sell stores or go out of business and fresh new companies sprout up. Through all this change, Arlan’s Market has been growing steadily since 1991, expanding from the original store in Nassau Bay near Houston to Austin and San Antonio.

Now with 13 stores – many of them acquired – the increased scale helps lower costs. “I think we’ve had a lot of time to figure out how we want to run our business before we took over these stores,” Vice President and General Manager Nick Arlan says. “Then when we took over these stores, we were able to take some things from them and implement them into our existing stores.”

These included office software and pricing procedures. “There was some software they owned that pointed us in the direction as far as getting more accurate billing for things that require scan data,” Arlan says. “We ended up buying a better piece of software that would help us with our billing and be more effective on those types of things.”

Founded in 1948 by Harold Binstein in a storefront near the Chicago Cubs’ ballpark, Binny’s Beverage Depot has expanded to 28 locations with its newest in Champaign, Ill. This Illinois empire created by CEO Michael Binstein, son of the founder, exceeds the original location in store size, merchandise selection and design.

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