The UPS StoreThe UPS Store® continues to develop solutions for small businesses as it prepares to open its 5,000th store. By Chris Kelsch

One thing most humans can agree on is that standing in line at the post office ranks as one of the most mind-numbing activities one could endure, and yet there are times it is simply unavoidable. As an alternative to this, Mail Boxes Etc. was introduced in 1980, and eventually grew to more than 3,000 stores by 2001. That’s when UPS took notice, seeing a huge opportunity to increase its retail presence for e-commerce shipping and returns. It purchased the company in 2001 and rebranded Mail Boxes Etc. as The UPS Store in 2003.

Since that time, the franchises have evolved into much more than shipping centers. Chris Adkins, vice president of franchise development for The UPS Store, has been with UPS for 34 years and seen quite an evolution. “Although the initial concept was a convenient alternative to the post office, our scope has really grown,” Adkins says. “Now we offer a range of solutions for small business owners. We are the back office support.”

Robb StuckyRobb & Stucky’s new ownership focuses on steady growth in Florida to revitalize a more than 100-year-old high-end furniture brand. By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Robb & Stucky is known in southwest Florida as the place to go for high-end furniture and interior design that turns houses into homes. “We don’t just sell one piece of furniture,” Vice President and CFO Eric Chien says. “Our sales staff are interior designers who assist our customers in refreshing the design of their home and incorporate the perfect pieces of furniture to fit their lifestyle. We care about our clients’ happiness and make sure they are pleased with their design and furnishings.”

Virgil Robb and W.R. Lee in 1915 opened a furniture and general merchandise store in Fort Myers, Fla., to serve a population of 349. At the time, the town had been incorporated for only 30 years. Two years later, Harry Stucky joined the team and by 1925 Lee had left the business and the company became known as Robb & Stucky.

The company grew to 40 stores throughout Florida, Texas and Las Vegas before going bankrupt. In 2011, Samson Holding Ltd. purchased the brand and intellectual properties in bankruptcy court, revitalized the company and opened its first showroom in 2012 in Fort Myers. “We are not affiliated with the previous Robb & Stucky,” Chien ensures. “The first few years were challenging because we had to redefine ourselves as a new company with an old legacy.”

Hannas Candle CoHanna’s Candle Company prides itself on providing customers with an on-time, quality product for an affordable price. By Bianca Herron

In 1987, Burt Hanna, founder of Hanna’s Candle Company, was a college student looking to make ends meet by selling potpourri he made in the basement of his home. Hanna quickly found some success, prompting him to move the business out of the basement and into a factory. Soon after, he expanded into making practically every kind of scented product, ultimately finding a niche in the scented candle market.

Thirty years after its founding, Hanna’s Candle Company produces a variety of products, including candles in dozens of scents, such as vanilla, lavender and cinnamon sugar. “We are one of the larger home fragrance companies in the United States,” Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Joe Williams says. “We have been very successful by being able to maintain a small group of key executives.”

The Paper StoreKnowing what’s hot and offering unique customer experiences have helped expand The Paper Store’s empire by 22 stores in two years. (Photo credit: Nathan Ekis) By Kat Zeman

They don’t want you to feel like a black cat in a coal cellar – or a white cat in a snowstorm. You’re special.

If you wait in the checkout line for more than four minutes, they believe they’ve failed you. On social media, they try to respond to requests within seven minutes.

The Paper Store’s retail philosophy revolves around time management and offering consumers positive and memorable experiences that make them feel like individuals. “Our customer’s time is precious,” President and CEO Tom Anderson says. “It is our intention that the customer never experiences the ‘needle in a haystack’ approach when they shop with us.”

FAFFAF has a unique approach to the fashion jewelry and accessories business. (Photo by Lisa Hancock.) By Alan Dorich

Fashion Accessories First (FAF) views challenges as opportunities, according to Principal and Chief Development Officer JoEllen Fiorenzano. “Many of our retail partners come to FAF with challenges they’re having from the ever changing business climate,” she says. “They are looking for solutions. FAF works cross functionally to provide solutions and drive opportunities.”

Greenville, R.I.-based FAF designs and markets fashion jewelry and accessories. Principal Arthur Fiorenzano co-founded the company with his father in 1975 as a manufacturer of fashion jewelry. “In the early years, we became one of the largest domestic suppliers for wholesalers and service companies that were focused on mass, mid-tier and specialty department stores,” Fiorenzano says. In the mid ‘80s, the company began selling directly to retailers who were interested in factory direct pricing.

Jewelry TV

Jewelry Television embraces streaming content and an omnichannel presence to put its programs in front of customers.

By Tim O’Connor

 

Jewelry Television’s (JTV) ability to engage its viewers has long made its customers feel as if they are a part of its jewelry and shows. But the building going on at the company’s headquarters and studios in Knoxville, Tenn., will soon give fans an opportunity to see their favorite programs in person.

As part of its ongoing 95,000-square-foot expansion, the company is constructing a 500-seat auditorium for live audience broadcasts. “I think it’s going to be really fun for our TV audiences to experience this,” President and CEO Tim Matthews says.

The auditorium is another way that JTV is opening itself up to its customers. Fans driving through the Knoxville area already visit the studio and Matthews sees the live audience as the next step. “Once we start telling people we’re open for this kind of show, I think we’ll get people interested,” he says.

Cermak Fresh MarketCermak Fresh Market listens to customers in the neighborhoods it serves even as it continues to expand. By Chris Kelsch

It is hard to imagine a group of retailers that have had to deal with more changes than grocery stores, especially in the metropolitan Chicago area. In the past few years, the area has seen the closing of 72 stores by one-time regional giant Dominick’s, while other local chains have seen their marketshare drop due to the emergence of online shopping.

Amid these changes, one Chicago-area independent has stood out thanks to its measured, basic approach. Cermak Fresh Market knows what it does well, and by sticking to it, has grown to 13 stores in the Chicago area, and one in the Milwaukee area, with the second store being built. All of the stores are owned and run by Mike Bousis, his father, Dimitrios “Jimmy” Bousis and the family of the late Pantelis “Pandelo” Tzotzilis.

Mike Bousis, who started working in the stores as a teenager, learned a simple but valuable approach to business while growing up. “The way I look at it, the customer dictates,” Bousis says. “I ask them to tell me what it is they are looking for, and if we don’t have it, I will go searching for it.”

Sunshine ACESunshine Ace Hardware is opening more stores and expanding its commercial paint businesses. By Kat Zeman

It may be a small, family-owned chain, but Sunshine Ace Hardware has made a big splash in Florida’s home improvement and outdoor recreation market. With seven locations along the western coast of southwest Florida, Sunshine Ace has blossomed into one of the largest family-owned hardware stores in Southwest Florida – and continues to grow.

The Naples, Fla.-based hardware chain plans to open a new store this year and at least one more in 2018. It is also in the process of expanding its commercial painting business and continues to remodel its stores with new décor and a stronger focus on community localization to keep the chain fresh and relevant to shoppers.

“We’ve remodeled five out of our seven stores as part of our new store model and our expanding commercial focus,” President Michael Wynn says. ”Each store is customized to the unique community and customer base it serves.”

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