After being in the fashion industry for more than 15 years, John Varvatos, acclaimed men’s fashion designer, is getting back to his roots. 

This past March, Varvatos opened a new store in Detroit, his hometown. He’s watched the city go through troubled times since he was a child in the 1960s. But he sees hope in the city, believing it will become one of the most talked-about places in the next several years thanks to urban development, opportunity and reinvention. “I see a light shining through it today,” he says.

Varvatos’s store is one of two retail shops within 15 blocks and the only fashion retail store in the downtown area. Most of the storefronts are closed, but he believes it was important to plant his flag in Detroit and be part of the upcoming turn-around. 

When Brad Bowen took over ownership of Golf USA in late 2013, he understood that to be successful the brand had to renew its commitment to its small town stores. Prior ownership had expanded too aggressively into bigger markets where Golf USA found itself competing against large chains with deep pockets. But it was at the small town locations where Golf USA’s attentive customer service stood out and franchisees became a part of the community, creating personal relationships with junior and senior golfers alike. “That’s where we’ve seen a lot of success over the years,” Bowen says.

Golf USA’s were never designed to compete with the large, 60,000-square-foot retailers on inventory, but Bowen says its stores still offer all the familiar products that customers desire. “We have all the same wanted items, the same brands,” he states. “We just don’t carry the overkill in depth.” 

Foodarama is affectionately known in Houston as the go-to friendly neighborhood market, having served the community for more than 40 years. Although local customers who grew up shopping there with their parents or remember it opening for the first time might feel nostalgia for the grocery stores, Foodarama is changing with the times to better serve its customers.

“We are excited about the changes we are making and moving forward in 2015,” says Kim Alepa, CEO and daughter of founder Carrol Cox. “Our biggest challenges are not only the presence of competition, but also the always-changing trends of the grocery business. Customer shopping habits and patterns are very crucial to how we market our items.”

Located in New Orleans, Dorignac’s Food Center has carved out a niche for itself as a full-service grocery store that knows how to get what its customers want. Founded in 1947, the company has built its reputation by stocking hard-to-find items and making sure that consumers know that Dorignac’s can be counted on to take care of their needs. 

“We deliver service consistently and get to know our customers on a personal basis,” President Ronnie Dawson says. “Our store is a place in the community where our customers can get together and meet to catch up on what is going on in each other’s lives and other social happenings.”

An independent specialty pharmacy, Diplomat Pharmacy Inc. has become the largest organization of its kind in the country. The company’s roots date to the early 1970s, and it has grown to provide personalized medication therapies to people with specialized needs.

“Our growth accelerated in 2005 when we launched our national distribution center,” CEO and Chairman Phil Hagerman says. “Everything we do is focused on patients in need.” 

Today, Diplomat is headquartered in Flint, Mich. In addition to its national headquarters, the company has walk-in retail pharmacies in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Flint, Mich. and Brookhaven, Pa. Additionally, it operates 13 support sites in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The CDMA is much more than just a buying co-op. “We really pride ourselves on being the connection point between the vendor and retail communities,” says John Devine, vice president of the Novi, Mich.-based organization. “We look out for needs of both communities, and make the relationship between the two profitable and successful for both parties.”

Founded in 1926 to support the marketing and merchandising efforts of its members, the CDMA today helps more than 100 independent and regional chains in all aspects of their retail operations, particularly when it comes to stocking their shelves. The association also represents wholesalers as well as manufacturers. The association serves more than 3,000 retail stores in total.

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