When shoppers make decisions about where to buy groceries, they are confronted with different options, even in rural areas. For a small, independent operation like County Fair Food Stores to prosper against the competition, there needs to be a compelling competitive difference. According to Vice President of Operations Jim Stewart, County Fair Food Stores has staked its past, present and future on providing better service than the rest.

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Some family business owners have difficulty convincing their children to join them in the business – but not at Darrenkamp’s three grocery stores, which are headquartered in Lancaster, Pa. “I have three boys, my brother Larry has two boys and a girl, and my other brother Joe has a boy and a girl,” lists Vice President Dave Darrenkamp. “With a lot of them coming in, we’re looking at other stores right now.”

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Harry Good, founder of Good’s Stores, grew up in Pennsylvania’s farm country. When he realized his health was not suited for farm life, he had to find a new way to support his family. In 1957, he found his new calling in retail and opened a store out of his garage, selling everyday goods he purchased in Philadelphia.

Today, Good’s third- and fourth-generation descendants run the company he founded. The retail chain has four stores and a distribution center in the Pennsylvania area and continues to be a family owned business with family values at its core.

“What we sell now is pretty much what Harry was selling – although in a much larger scale,” President Ken Burkholder says. Burkholder, who is married to one of Good’s granddaughters, started working in the company in the 1980s.

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The November 2011 passage of Washington’s Initiative 1183 marked a major turning point in the state’s 78-year practice of controlling the sale of hard liquor. The measure, supported in large part by Costco and many other major retailers, spelled the end of sales in more than 300 state-owned stores in favor of allowing private businesses to carry liquor in addition to beer and wine products.

Read more: Hilltop and Promenade Red Apple Markets

As a convenience store chain, L&L Food Stores may not have reinvented the wheel, but it has made sure to keep it working to its fullest capability. Founded in 1973 by Wayne Land, the North Carolina operation has grown to 14 stores located in rural but well-populated cities. The company is currently planning a new 4,500-square-foot location to open in either Wilson or Bailey, N.C., by the end of the year. The strategy for success for the new store is the same tried-and-true, simple-but-effective rule the company employs in its current stores: Give the customers what they want.

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Not everybody always receives what they want for Christmas or their birthday, so when they don’t, they frequently treat themselves to what they wanted but did not receive. “I’ve tried to make The Paper Store so that it’s 50 percent buy-it-for-yourself and 50 percent you buy-it-for-a-gift,” CEO and Founder Bob Anderson notes. “We try to have the products that we bring in be able to fit both categories. Probably 80 percent of The Paper Store merchandise fits both categories, and 20 percent fits just the gift category.”

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Each region of the United States has its own style – the East is colonial and New England, the South pillared and plantationed, the West tiled and stuccoed and the Northwest wooded and rustic. Within these generalizations, finer regional classifications can emerge. South Florida – with its South Beach, motorboat lifestyle and Latin, nightclubbing vibe – is a category unto itself, as is the Fort Myers area on the Gulf of Mexico northwest of Miami.

Read more: Robb and Stucky International

The leaders of Standard Furniture are well aware that although decisions happen in the corporate office, the real business occurs on the showroom floor. “We have a sign in the corporate office that reads, ‘Our Stores Are Our Customers,’” says Greg Tronacle, vice president of operations. “We realize that in our main office and our distribution center, our role is a support role and that we don’t sell out of these locations. We are here to support our stores because they are on the front line every day dealing with customers.”

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