Paper1For the past 50 years, The Paper Store has nurtured a sense of community in more ways than one. With its vast array of products, ranging from jewelry to Hallmark cards to home décor, The Paper Store aims to bring friends and families closer together as they celebrate life’s moments. With the retailer being family owned and operated, this philosophy comes naturally. 

The same kinship that The Paper Store fosters between its customers is also fostered with the general public by becoming a true partner in helping its communities flourish. In addition to helping customers find the perfect gifts for loved ones, the New England-based company is a gift-giver itself. Over the years, it has partnered alongside charities such as Dana-Farber and The Jimmy Fund with fundraisers such as Dress for Soxcess, Strike Out Cancer and DFCI Holiday Program. With help from generous customers, The Paper Store has been honored to donate more than $700,000 to DFCI to date. 

Original1The lollipop is deceptively simple, but its simplicity offers a world of possibilities in terms of flavors and revenues. Perhaps no one understands this better than New Hampshire’s Original Gourmet Food Company, which for the past few years has developed the humble lollipop into a gourmet sweet treat with mass appeal. Marketing Director Angela LeBrun explains that the company’s lollipops are the key driver of the company’s success, and that has as much to do with how sweet they are for retailers as they are for consumers. 

Original Gourmet has come a long way since its inception. The company’s original focus was on seasonal gift items such as cookies and others sweets and snacks. As LeBrun explains, the company was approached by some buyers who were looking for a gourmet lollipop product, and its established distribution network made it easy for Original Gourmet to get those products into stores. Since then, the success of the company’s lollipop products has opened new channels, including convenience stores, mass-market retailers and grocery retailers. 

Mollie1In recent years, consumer demand for natural, organic and specialty foods has grown to the point where practically every major supermarket chain devotes at least one aisle to these items.

Organic, specialty and hard-to-find foods have been a major part of Mollie Stone’s Markets’ inventory since the company opened its first store in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1986. Unlike many of its competitors, Mollie Stone’s stocks these items throughout the aisles of each of its nine stores. Natural, organic and other specialty foods are often placed next to their conventional counterparts, with signage indicating how they may differ from the related items.

“We are cutting-edge and pioneers in a number of ways,” says President and CEO Mike Stone, who named the company after his late mother. “We were the first ones to really combine a conventional supermarket and a natural foods store under one roof.”

Jessica1When entertainment, music and style icon Jessica Simpson progresses into a new stage in her life, her collection follows. Inspiration for the new Jessica Simpson Bedding and Home Accessory Collection came after she recently became a mother of two and bought a new home to create a sanctuary for her family.

“I am thrilled to be working on this collection,” Simpson says. “Home interiors have always been a passion of mine. I spend a lot of time at home and even more so as a mom. I always aspire to create a sanctuary for myself and my family. The collection is perfect for both the young lady who is setting up her first space and the family who is setting up their home.” 

Camuto Group, based in Greenwich, Connecticut, has been the master licensee for the Jessica Simpson Collection since 2005. “It’s an exciting, dynamic brand built by her and her family, and that makes it a different product offering than what’s out there,” Executive Vice President Leah Robert says. “Everyone really works together to make it the best brand.”

Home1Some 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.

Hobo1Designing 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. 

Gelsons1Among 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.”

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