By Stephanie Crets

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than a cold, sweet treat. Rita’s Italian Ice has delivered its Italian ice concept to customers across the United States for more than 30 years, offering flavored Italian ice, frozen custard, milkshakes and much more, ultimately becoming the world’s largest Italian ice concept.

What started on a small front porch in Andalusia, Pa., in 1984 has expanded to more than 600 locations in 29 states thanks to Rita’s commitment to high-quality, unique, made-fresh-daily products, superior service standards and a happy guest experience. Rita’s was formerly known as an East Coast-only brand, but in the last five years has grown from coast to coast. 

The company has branched out to international markets as well, opening locations in Canada, Dubai and the Philippines. Additionally, it plans to open 46 or more locations throughout the Middle East, a Puerto Rico location next month and Saudi Arabia in the coming months. 

Christopher Reed’s interest in meditation and healing herbs was piqued when he was student at UCLA. He studied Ayurveda, the herbology of India, as well as Chinese medicine before ultimately being drawn to the healing properties of ginger.

Today, the entrepreneur runs a successful beverage company that relies on old-fashioned, natural methods and fresh ingredients, most notably ginger, to create a line of natural and crafted beverages. 

“I started this from a very idealistic background,” Reed recalls. “I was just fascinated with self healing.” Reed researched centuries-old recipes that referenced the health benefits of the ginger root, which is believed to be one of the world’s healthiest foods. He also discovered that long before soda was a commercial product, people brewed their own beverages from roots, spices and fruits. These early soft drinks, besides being natural and delicious, were also healthy and frequently used as herbal tonics, he says.

The health and happiness of every customer guides Raley’s Family of Fine Stores in all aspects of its business. Every decision is made to serve the customer and community in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. This vision has been passed down through three generations and 80 years of business, from the first store in Placerville, Calif., opened in 1935 by founder Thomas P. Raley, to 135 stores today throughout California and Nevada run by Raley’s grandson, Michael Teel.

The grocery industry has always been incredibly competitive and fast-changing. Raley’s believes that, for the most part, it’s changing for the good. Customers are educating themselves about the positive and negative effects of what they’re putting in their bodies and realizing that food is more important to health than they ever knew. 

Petroleum Wholesale is redefining the retail travel center by offering not just gas and fast-food options to customers but also specialty retailers. 

The company, a privately owned motor fuel distributor, was founded in 1973 and now owns retail locations throughout nine states and more than 200 properties, including many slated for future development. One of those became its first hybrid travel center.

Two years ago, Petroleum Wholesale President John Cook began envisioning the future of the company and what types of projects it wanted to move forward with. After formulating the hybrid travel complex idea, the company chose a 40-year-old facility in Texas that was in desperate need of a restart. So the company raised and rebuilt the facility from the ground up. This innovative, new facility was completed in 10 months and falls under Petroleum Wholesale’s “Main Street Market” umbrella, which offers motor fuel and retail offerings such as discount groceries, hardware, auto parts, premium cigars, apparel and fast food.

The airport retail and concession business has changed dramatically since Raymond Kayal’s grandfather opened one of the first stores in Miami International Airport in 1959.

“We started at a time when airport retail and concession was unknown and not a big industry,” Kayal says of his family. “At the very beginning, concessions in airports were non-branded, generic environments, and that’s what the airports wanted and what customers expected. 

“In the old days, if there was a newsstand in an airport, its name was ‘Newsstand.’ A bookstore was simply ‘Bookstore,’ and airport retail was just ‘Gift Shop,’” he adds. “In the past 20 to 30 years, it’s become more of a branded environment. The evolution, from a design perspective, has been from generic environments to very brand-specific and highly designed spaces.”

With 32 years of business under its belt, Market Basket Food Stores knows a thing or two about managing successful supermarkets and convenience stores. Its stores – two supermarkets and 20 convenience stores – are located throughout seven different North Carolina counties, all within a 200-mile radius, making it easy for Steve Hunt, vice president of Market Basket, to get to any store whenever he’s needed. 

He joined Market Basket in June 1984 when the company, run by his father, R.D. Hunt, was only in the grocery business with a country store and a supermarket. Soon his father purchased a convenience store and Hunt describes it as a time when he and his father, the president of Market Basket, “didn’t know what the heck we were doing. We just had a country store that offered gasoline.” 

The father/son business partners then bought several QuickStop convenience store locations to grow this new business venture in a very strategic, concentrated area. To this day, the two take a hands-on management approach and visit every store whenever necessary instead of relying completely on one manager at each location. 

Founded in 1915, Kimbrell’s Furniture says it is one of the largest and oldest furniture stores in the Carolinas. Among the many reasons for its success is the company’s in-store credit. “Credit has always been part of our store,” President and CEO Ken Thornburg emphasizes. “We have a large portfolio of in-house account receivables. We make individual credit decisions in all 49 locations and also go about the collection of those account receivables in those locations. There’s no central credit office.”

Kimbrell’s Furniture sells furniture, mattresses, appliances and consumer electronics at its 48 store locations in North and South Carolina plus one over the border in Elberton, Ga., as well as its exchange location in Sumter, S.C., where merchandise that has been damaged or returned is sold at a discount.

Being a 140-year-old company has its benefits. Just ask J.W. Pepper, which has been delivering music since 1876. Today, J.W. Pepper is the go-to sheet music store for band, orchestra and choral music, piano sheet music, worship songs, songbooks and more. 

“While we’re not lost in the past, we have a tremendous appreciation for those who worked here before us,” President and CEO Glenn Burtch says. “The company archive is a history of American music from shortly after the Civil War through today. Historians use our catalogs for research. We celebrate that history with artwork and instrument displays, but of course it’s our job to make sure we’re here for another 140 years.”

rmcover janfeb2016

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