Tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains in a small North Carolina town stands one of Main Street’s most iconic places: the Mast General Store. Established in 1883, the Mast General Store was not only the place community members gathered, but also the store that carried everything the residents needed. “If you can’t buy it here, you don’t need it” became its slogan and that tradition continues today.

When the doors of the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, N.C., closed in 1977, residents believed it was just for the winter and that it would reopen in April. Much to their dismay however, those plans didn’t pan out and local residents banded together in an effort to save the old store. But it wasn’t until 1979 when John and Faye Cooper purchased the old store and reopened it in 1980 that it regained its reputation of “the store that had everything.” 

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Skating across the ice and stopping on a dime, soaring above an opponent’s heads for a game-winning slam dunk – the physical prowess of professional athletes seems almost otherworldly at times. And yet, the best sports teams connect with their fans in such a way that the fans don’t just feel like they are supporting the team, but are part of it. Perhaps that’s why the NBA’s Toronto Raptors newest media campaign is titled “We The North,” – effectively letting its fans know that although it is part of a league composed mainly of U.S.-based teams, the Raptors are proudly one with their fans.

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After nearly 50 years, Lueken’s Village Foods maintains the standards of its late co-founder, Joe Lueken. “He was renowned in our part of the world for his integrity, honesty and work ethic,” President and CEO Brent Sicard says. “That’s been really [the key to] our success.”

Based in Bemidji, Minn., Lueken’s operates three family owned supermarkets in its home city. Joe Lueken and his brother started the company in 1966 and gradually “built it up from nothing,” Sicard says. 

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The word “innovation” has a very simple meaning: a new idea or method. It’s the ability to look at something and figure out how to do it better, faster and sometimes cheaper. Although many of today’s new ideas arrive with great fanfare and shareholder frenzy, often it’s the simple things that have the most impact on a business and its customers. 

So how do you create the optimal climate for creative thinking that solves problems and pushes boundaries? At the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), one of the biggest purchasers of beverage alcohol in the world, Executive Vice President Dr. George Soleas says you focus on the strengths of your people instead of trying to fix their weaknesses, and you let their ideas be heard.

Read more: Liquor Control Board of Ontario

Doris Italian Market & Bakery’s biggest business challenge is one that is well known to many of the “little guys” – the family owned, regionally based supermarkets doing their best to find their place in a retail market dominated by large national corporations. “We’re constantly fighting for our piece of the pie,” says Joey Alfano, operations manager of the Hollywood, Fla.-based specialty supermarket. “Our success has been a result of focusing on our niche market and being different and refreshing to our customers. That’s how we keep them coming back to us instead of going to bigger supermarkets.”

The market offers its customers a level of expertise and personal attention that is often difficult to find in its larger competitors. “Our employees are knowledgeable about our products and are able to assist customers with questions or offer helpful advice,” Alfano says. “They will go the extra mile to make customers satisfied. 

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In 2008, when DLR Restaurants LLC President and COO Ralph McCracken was researching the purchase of Dick’s Last Resort with the investment group Triton Pacific Capital, he would strike up conversations with people sitting next to him on airplanes who had visited one of the irreverent chain’s distinctive locations.

“The first thing they did was smile, and they had some kind of crazy story,” McCracken recalls. “They never remembered what they had to eat, but they remembered they had a great time.” That pretty much sums up the experience of eating at Dick’s Last Resort.

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As a renowned racecar driver turned successful auto designer and manufacturer, Carroll Shelby revolutionized high-performance auto designs both for the racetrack and for street vehicles for collectors.

Today, his logos grace products including die-cast cars, clothing, video games and golf carts – as well as automobiles. In fact, there are more than 150 Carroll Shelby licensees worldwide. 

“There are people out there who know the brand but cannot afford one of these cars,” says Ari Kopmar, executive vice president of consumer initiatives. “These products give people access to the brand and an opportunity to show their support. It shows their advocacy for the brand and the man. Carroll Shelby was a true American icon.”

Read more: Carroll Shelby Licensing Inc.

The mission of the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) is to enhance the morale and welfare of the military community, thus contributing to the operational readiness and effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). As one of the four main operational entities of CFMWS, the Canadian Forces Exchange System (CANEX) has been fulfilling a crucial component of that mission by providing CAF servicepeople and their families with retail outlets and other services on military bases for more than 45 years. 

“We’re here to support the CAF community and in doing so have modernized our mission and competitive strategy in an effort to optimize our retail infrastructure,” Associate Vice President of Marketing Diana Sousa says. CANEX continues to develop new ways to serve and benefit the men and women of the CAF and their families, and Sousa says maintaining a strong connection with the community has assisted in achieving this for so long. 

Read more: CANEX

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