eBags President and CEO Mike Edwards sees more in a handbag, backpack or piece of luggage than travel gear. Instead, he envisions a journey. It’s a journey that begins when a customer logs onto eBags.com to select the product and continues when she carries it during a much-anticipated trip or on daily adventures closer to home.

Edwards has only been at the helm of eBags since August, but the presentation he made to the company’s board of directors before he was hired summarized his vision for the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based company, which was founded in 1998 as an online luggage provider.

Even seemingly small improvements can have a huge impact on the look of a shop. When Missouri’s Break Time convenience stores began remodeling its older locations last year, the changes were mostly modest. The company installed new coffee equipment and expanded fountains for soft drinks, updated interior graphics and better utilized floor space to make it more open. Although the store structures were mostly untouched, the improvements had an immediate effect on customers. 

“It makes a definite impact when you walk in,” says Curtis Chaney, senior vice president of retail. “A lot of customers think we’ve actually made the store larger just because of the changes we’ve made.”

Since it was founded 30 years ago in Los Angeles, WSS has seen its retail business grow significantly from its humble beginnings. Founder and CEO Eric Alon started the company by selling shoes out of the trunk of his car throughout neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Today, WSS is the largest California-based neighborhood footwear retailer in the country. 

WSS has retail partnerships with premium brands like Jordan, Converse, Nike, Adidas, Puma, Fila, Vans and Under Armour. There are currently 70 WSS locations with more than 1,300 employees.

“An insatiable spirit of entrepreneurism and drive propelled Mr. Alon to grow the footprint of WSS across the West Coast,” Vice President of Marketing Roderic Aiken says. “In May, we launched our new flagship store in downtown Los Angeles located on 7th and Union. The newest location represents a milestone for the company of 30 years in business.”

Headquartered in Dublin, Calif., Ross Stores Inc. has been able to grow and flourish into a high-performing S&P 500, Fortune 500 and Nasdaq 100 company. Today, Ross Stores operates Ross Dress for Less, the largest off-price apparel and home fashion chain in the country, which has more than 1,200 locations in 33 states. The company also operates dd’s DISCOUNTS, a moderate off-price chain with more than 150 locations in 15 states. 

“The biggest reason for our success is our ability to attract and retain talented and experienced people across all areas of our business who are able to successfully execute the company’s core strategy on a consistent basis,” President and Chief Development Officer Jim Fassio says.

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.

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