Cermak Fresh MarketCermak Fresh Market listens to customers in the neighborhoods it serves even as it continues to expand. By Chris Kelsch

It is hard to imagine a group of retailers that have had to deal with more changes than grocery stores, especially in the metropolitan Chicago area. In the past few years, the area has seen the closing of 72 stores by one-time regional giant Dominick’s, while other local chains have seen their marketshare drop due to the emergence of online shopping.

Amid these changes, one Chicago-area independent has stood out thanks to its measured, basic approach. Cermak Fresh Market knows what it does well, and by sticking to it, has grown to 13 stores in the Chicago area, and one in the Milwaukee area, with the second store being built. All of the stores are owned and run by Mike Bousis, his father, Dimitrios “Jimmy” Bousis and the family of the late Pantelis “Pandelo” Tzotzilis.

Mike Bousis, who started working in the stores as a teenager, learned a simple but valuable approach to business while growing up. “The way I look at it, the customer dictates,” Bousis says. “I ask them to tell me what it is they are looking for, and if we don’t have it, I will go searching for it.”

Sunshine ACESunshine Ace Hardware is opening more stores and expanding its commercial paint businesses. By Kat Zeman

It may be a small, family-owned chain, but Sunshine Ace Hardware has made a big splash in Florida’s home improvement and outdoor recreation market. With seven locations along the western coast of southwest Florida, Sunshine Ace has blossomed into one of the largest family-owned hardware stores in Southwest Florida – and continues to grow.

The Naples, Fla.-based hardware chain plans to open a new store this year and at least one more in 2018. It is also in the process of expanding its commercial painting business and continues to remodel its stores with new décor and a stronger focus on community localization to keep the chain fresh and relevant to shoppers.

“We’ve remodeled five out of our seven stores as part of our new store model and our expanding commercial focus,” President Michael Wynn says. ”Each store is customized to the unique community and customer base it serves.”

Parker School UBe it a brick-and-mortar location, online or mobile store, Parker School Uniforms strives to provide customers with what they need: a consistent and customized experience. By Bianca Herron

Parker School Uniforms was founded in 1931 as a provider of uniforms for nursing students during World War I. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Houston, Texas-based company began to focus on school uniforms and gained momentum in the mid-1990s as the apparel became more popular.

“The company has grown tremendously since then,” President and CEO Troy Pike says. “We have grown by 67 percent in past seven years. We are a vertically integrated retailer of private school uniforms, primarily, and have about 47 retail stores under three brand names. Our brands include Parker School Uniforms, which is the marquee and largest brand, True Grit Uniforms and Charter School Uniforms.”

B. INDIGO BIKINIAfter 55 years in the industry, Diane’s Beachwear continues to be a one-stop shop for customers by providing the newest, on-trend and high-quality swimwear they need. By Bianca Herron

When Mickie Bandle opened the 150-square-foot Mickie’s Swim Shop in Manhattan Beach, Calif., in 1962, she made custom bikinis and allowed customers to mix sizes for tops and bottoms. Not long after making its debut, the company outgrew its tiny shop and relocated to a larger location just one block up.

Fifty-five years later, the company is owned and operated by Bandle’s daughter, Diane Biggs, as Diane’s Beachwear. With 21 locations throughout southern California and a couple in Arizona, its mission remains the same now as it was in the 1960s. Biggs says this has been the foundation of its success over the years. 

“Our commitment began and continues to focus on the well-being of women,” Biggs says. “We have always offered more than just merchandise. In a nurturing environment, we encourage women to be active, healthy and to feel good about their bodies.” 

SPENCERSFor more than 40 years, Spencer’s TV & Appliance has emphasized one-on-one interaction with customers to give them the best service and meet their needs. By Bianca Herron

Nick Spencer founded Spencer’s TV & Appliance in 1973 in Mesa, Ariz. The following year, Spencer sold the company to Dick Biederbeck because business was not going well. For the first year under Biederbeck’s leadership, Spencer’s TV & Appliance reached nearly $350,000 in sales. In the more than 40 years since then, the Tempe, Ariz.-based company has seen tremendous growth, says owner Rick Biederbeck.

“We do more in sales every day than we did the first year my dad owned the company,” he says. “So we have had about 100 times growth in the last 40 years. Because of that, I would say the purchase has been a pretty good deal.”

westernhillHibbett Sports brings premier athletic brands to customers in neglected markets. By Tim O’Connor

Most retailers want to be where the majority of shoppers are. Major brands place their flagship stores in big cities where they can pull customers from the large surrounding population. But Hibbett Sports has found success in the past 40 years by taking the opposite approach. Instead of chasing population-packed metropolises, the sporting goods retailer found success by being the go-to store for small markets.

Hibbett Sports stores are typically found in county seat-type markets with few major retailers. Places where without Hibbett Sports residents would have to drive a long way to purchase well-known brands such as Nike and Under Armour or settle for discount products. “We like to go to markets where we’re needed,” says Jeff Gray, vice president of real estate. “We have a pretty specific focus we’ve done for 40 years. It really gives us an advantage in those type markets.”

coldersColder’s Furniture, Appliances and Mattresses continues to focus on customer service by being one of the first retailers to offer The Serta Connection and continuously improving its locations. By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Colder’s Furniture, Appliances and Mattresses has been southeastern Wisconsin’s go-to retailer for household items for 75 years. Colder’s has continually offered a great value, selection and service. “I think the overall success has been that it’s a family owned and operated local company.” owner Tom Balistreri says. “In addition to that, we offer a great value for the products we sell and that contributes to our reputation and of course, contributes to more customers and repeat business.”

Henry Felker founded the Milwaukee-based company in 1942 as the Henry Cooler Co. The future namesake was created after an advertising sign misspelled the name as Henry’s Colder Co. Colder’s began as a refrigeration service company and in 1946, when Felker’s brother Harry Felker joined the company, it branched out into refrigerator and freezer sales.

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