Comfort One ShoesComfort One Shoes thrives by providing unique products and service. By Alan Dorich

Comfort One Shoes does more than provide its clients with footwear. “We analyze and measure their feet, then probe their needs,” President Maurice Breton says. “We find out what they’re looking for and then try to match those products to their foot.”

This level of service has earned the company a loyal client base. “We have dozens and dozens of customers that have spent over $50,000 with us,” he says. “We truly are a sit-and-fit retailer.”

Based in Manassas, Va., Comfort One Shoes operates a chain of 22 locations in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., that specialize in high-quality comfort yet fashionable European footwear. “We buy shoes from Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Italy and Portugal” Maurice Breton says. “We pride ourselves on having exclusive brands.”

JOHANNESONS 01Johanneson’s Inc. newest supermarket brand is providing a learning experience for the organic foods market. By Tim O’Connor

Johanneson’s Inc. has always believed its supermarkets are part of their communities. In some towns, it’s the only traditional grocer around. The company embraces the small-town atmosphere through promotions like its annual outdoor market, where food displays are set up in tents outside the store and employees dress in farmer overalls.

It’s not surprising, then, that owner Keith Johanneson feels a sense of responsibility for the well-being of his stores’ communities. For the past 25 years, the company has work with school districts in Bemidji, Minn., where is it headquartered, to stuff a semi-truck full of food and cash donations, keeping the local food pantry stocked for all of November and December. It also hosts road rallies for troops in its parking lots to support National Guard community programs. Last year’s event drew a chain of motorcycles seven miles long and brought the total number of donations to more than a half-million dollars during the past 12 years.

“For the most part, we’re known as a great service company,” Johanneson says. “We’re also known as very progressive in our industry.

Zachys Wine and LiquorZachys’ investments in e-commerce technology and other improvements are bringing the specialty wine retailer to the next level of success. By Jim Harris

Decades before the Internet became a part of daily life, Don Zacharia of Zachys was taking his company “viral.”

Zacharia, the wine retailer’s Chairman, became known during the 1970s for taking out full-page ads in The New York Times touting the offerings in his flagship Scarsdale, N.Y., store. “His relationship with the Times developed to where these ads were running every week, which got our brand known outside of the New York metro market,” says Andrew McMurray, Zachys vice president and Zacharia’s son-in-law.

HOPE FoodsHOPE Foods is becoming a national brand by making the best hummus it can and holding on to its positive internal culture. By Jim Harris

HOPE Foods’ name has taken on a few different meanings for its founders and employees during the company’s six years in business.

“It started with us wanting a product that we hoped would exist, and creating and developing a company around that hope,” says Robbie Rech, the company’s president and one of its co-founders. “For our people, it’s about giving them an opportunity to grow and accomplish their goals and achieve the success they’ve hoped for. We also, as a company, support outside organizations that provide hope to the community.”

Rech and five others first started to act on their hopeful feelings in April 2011, when they sold their first products at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market in Boulder, Colo. “We basically saw an opportunity to do something creative with hummus,” he says. “We wanted to make a clean-label, organic hummus that had unique flavors.”

El Rio Grande Latin MarketEl Río Grande offers customers fresh Latin American foods backed by strong service. By Alan Dorich

El Río Grande – Latin Market gives its people the tools they need to do their jobs right, President and CEO Hamdy Shalabi says. Not only has this strategy made his business thrive, “But personally, it makes me successful,” he says.

When the company’s meat cutters or bakers need the right equipment or ingredients to ensure they are providing quality products, Shalabi makes sure they have them. “With that philosophy, I’ve always extracted from individuals the results that they never knew they had the capability of delivering,” he says.

Based in Dallas, El Río Grande’s stores offer Latin American flavors on their shelves. Shalabi founded the company in 2005 after gaining a strong background in retail. “My dad and uncles owned convenience stores,” he recalls, noting that he worked in stores that sold pagers and cell phones.

Wise Foods96-year-old Wise Foods finds flavor inspiration in food trucks to keep its classic chips fresh. By Tim O’Connor

Consumers today are more conscious than ever about the food they eat, and want healthy options when it comes to their favorite meals and snacks. What Jeremy Bjork, chief marketing officer for chip and popcorn maker Wise Foods Inc., finds interesting about the healthy eating trend is just how wide that spectrum runs.

“Consumers are focused on the healthy-for-you market, but that’s very different for every consumer,” he says. One person may want gluten-free or non-GMO products while another is simply looking for lightly-salted snacks or reduced fat. To address all those consumers, Wise Foods is focused on creating a variety of snacks that tap into emerging trends. In 2015, Wise Foods installed a kettle line in its Pennsylvania production facility that allowed it to created reduced fat kettle chips. That kind of investment was only possible because of support from its parent company, Arca Continental.

Karls TVKarl’s TV continues to thrive as an independent retailer in its markets. By Alan Dorich

Karl’s TV. AUDIO. APPLIANCES. FURNITURE has seen its competition surge with the rise of big-box stores and Internet retailers like Amazon. But Karl’s, the 61-year-old independent retail operation, sets itself apart in the market with its focus on service, owner Elmer Karl says.

Each of its locations features a service department where customers can bring their appliances or electronics for repair. “We take care of all of our customers if they have a problem,” Karl says. “A lot of other companies don’t do that.”

Home Franchise ConceptsHome Franchise Concepts is turning into one of the fastest-growing franchises in the direct-to-consumer home services category. By Kat Zeman

It started out 25 years ago as a small business operating out of a cramped apartment in Orange County, Calif. Five friends with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for home furnishing decided to start a window coverings company. They called it Budget Blinds. In an old white Jeep, they drove around delivering fliers door-to-door to promote their new company.

Over time, they branched out their window coverings concept into the franchise business. More than two decades later, the company has almost 1,100 home improvement franchises throughout North America. Budget Blinds now operates under Home Franchise Concepts along with two other concepts: Tailored Living and Concrete Craft.

“We offer people an alternative to working 9-to-5,” Home Franchise Concepts CEO Shirin Behzadi says. “At the same time, we want to give them an opportunity to make good money. All of our models were created with that in mind.”

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