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.”

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.”

Although oil and water don’t mix, Gilligan Oil Co. is profiting from coffee and gasoline, along with donuts and submarine sandwiches, which consumers seem to crave when traveling around town or on trips. The company also has vertically integrated into wholesale diesel and gasoline distribution.

“Everybody is interested in donuts and coffee, no matter where they are,” President and CEO Pat Gilligan emphasizes. “Donuts and coffee work in highway sites and in urban areas. We run about 75 percent of our Dunkin’ Donuts sales through the register by 11:30 a.m.”

Subway and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen complement coffee and donuts in the afternoon and evening day-parts at Gilligan Oil Co.’s 26 co-operated convenience stores, many of which feature at least two of the franchises. “They all are intermixed based on location and where we deem its demographics make it a good place to put one franchise or another,” COO Chris Zimmerman explains.

When people stop into a convenience store, they’re usually pressed for time, so they want to know as soon as they walk in the door that they will be able to count on an exceptional experience. That’s why Forward Corp. has such a strong advantage over other c-store chains in northeastern Michigan, according to Co-Owner and Chief Marketing Officer Emily Mallory. She says the company’s strong connection to the local community and its fifth-generation family ownership mean its customers always find what they need and feel welcomed. A recent rebranding initiative has helped to strengthen those connections even further, and should prove to be the foundation for the company’s continued success. 

Mallory and her sister, Abby Moniz, represent the fifth generation of family leadership for Forward Corp., which started with a single service station in Standish, Mich., purchased in 1925 by Austin G. Forward and a partner. By 1955, Forward’s grandsons had purchased the company, which had grown into a series of Shell service stations. The third and fourth generation of the family, led by their father Terry McTaggart, focused on modernizing the entire chain, adding new stations and food service facilities as well as diversifying into areas such as auto parts and fuel delivery services. 

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