The PRIDE StoresAfter 50 years in the industry, The PRIDE Stores aims to grow its locations by exceeding its customers’ expectations. By Bianca Herron

The PRIDE Stores is more than a name – it is a mantra, according to CEO Mario Spina. “My father started this company about 50 years ago,” he says. “After I received my MBA from DePaul I joined the company and have been here for 15 years now. My dad started calling our stores The PRIDE a long time ago. We not only want the people who work for us to take PRIDE in our stores, but also ensure that the communities and customers who shop with us take PRIDE as well.”

PRIDE derives from the belief that the Warrenville, Ill.-based company always does things differently from its competitors. “Our slogan is ‘Not your typical convenience store,’” Spina notes. “So we try to do things differently than most people anticipate when they come into a gas station convenience store.”

The PRIDE owns and operates 12 convenience store gas stations in the Chicagoland market. Parent Petroleum Company, a wholesale supplier of fuel and lubricants, owns the retail division of the company, while CIMA Developers oversees its real estate. “Through Parent Petroleum we supply 350 stations with every major brand of fuel,” Spina explains. “I run the retail and the real estate sides of the company. Through CIMA we do all of our own property development and management, including maintenance. In addition we buy, sell and lease all of our own real estate.”

SionicSionic Mobile’s cloud-based technology powers the loyalty and mobile payment apps used by millions of consumers. By Jim Harris

Consumers and retailers in ever-increasing numbers look to smartphones to make shopping and marketing even easier. Developing and maintaining the apps that make these experiences so convenient, however, takes a great deal of knowledge and commitment.

Sionic Mobile works tirelessly to perfect the technology that many of its users might take for granted. Established in 2010, the company initially launched its mobile reward app engine – the ION Commerce Engine™ (ICE) – in shops and restaurants in 42 U.S. airports. After learning that the apps powered by the ICE were not being used or adopted in the way that it had hoped, the company sought to improve the technology.

“We initially underestimated what it took for the people behind the counter to process a mobile reward,” says Ronald Herman, CEO of the Atlanta-based company. “We regrouped and told ourselves that we had to make that part of the process better.

Arnolds Office FurnitureAfter 88 years, Arnold’s Office Furniture aims to double its growth in the next five years. By Bianca Herron

Although known as Arnold’s Office Furniture today, immigrants David and Rose Norman founded their company as Norman’s Stationery Company in 1929. Their son, Arnold, joined the family business and started selling office furniture in 1950. He took over in 1973, renamed the company, and ran it until 2005, when he sold it to Jay Berkowitz.

Twelve years later, Jay and his son, Jordan, have grown Arnold’s into a nationwide provider of new and used office furniture based out of Bridgeport, PA.

“We went from having all of our customers come from foot traffic, to having 75 percent from the internet, 20 percent past customers, and 5 percent walk-ins,” President Jordan Berkowitz says. “Arnold’s went from regional to national and increased sales more than 25 times than what they were in 2005.”

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.

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