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.”

The UPS StoreThe UPS Store® continues to develop solutions for small businesses as it prepares to open its 5,000th store. By Chris Kelsch

One thing most humans can agree on is that standing in line at the post office ranks as one of the most mind-numbing activities one could endure, and yet there are times it is simply unavoidable. As an alternative to this, Mail Boxes Etc. was introduced in 1980, and eventually grew to more than 3,000 stores by 2001. That’s when UPS took notice, seeing a huge opportunity to increase its retail presence for e-commerce shipping and returns. It purchased the company in 2001 and rebranded Mail Boxes Etc. as The UPS Store in 2003.

Since that time, the franchises have evolved into much more than shipping centers. Chris Adkins, vice president of franchise development for The UPS Store, has been with UPS for 34 years and seen quite an evolution. “Although the initial concept was a convenient alternative to the post office, our scope has really grown,” Adkins says. “Now we offer a range of solutions for small business owners. We are the back office support.”

Robb StuckyRobb & Stucky’s new ownership focuses on steady growth in Florida to revitalize a more than 100-year-old high-end furniture brand. By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

Robb & Stucky is known in southwest Florida as the place to go for high-end furniture and interior design that turns houses into homes. “We don’t just sell one piece of furniture,” Vice President and CFO Eric Chien says. “Our sales staff are interior designers who assist our customers in refreshing the design of their home and incorporate the perfect pieces of furniture to fit their lifestyle. We care about our clients’ happiness and make sure they are pleased with their design and furnishings.”

Virgil Robb and W.R. Lee in 1915 opened a furniture and general merchandise store in Fort Myers, Fla., to serve a population of 349. At the time, the town had been incorporated for only 30 years. Two years later, Harry Stucky joined the team and by 1925 Lee had left the business and the company became known as Robb & Stucky.

The company grew to 40 stores throughout Florida, Texas and Las Vegas before going bankrupt. In 2011, Samson Holding Ltd. purchased the brand and intellectual properties in bankruptcy court, revitalized the company and opened its first showroom in 2012 in Fort Myers. “We are not affiliated with the previous Robb & Stucky,” Chien ensures. “The first few years were challenging because we had to redefine ourselves as a new company with an old legacy.”

Hannas Candle CoHanna’s Candle Company prides itself on providing customers with an on-time, quality product for an affordable price. By Bianca Herron

In 1987, Burt Hanna, founder of Hanna’s Candle Company, was a college student looking to make ends meet by selling potpourri he made in the basement of his home. Hanna quickly found some success, prompting him to move the business out of the basement and into a factory. Soon after, he expanded into making practically every kind of scented product, ultimately finding a niche in the scented candle market.

Thirty years after its founding, Hanna’s Candle Company produces a variety of products, including candles in dozens of scents, such as vanilla, lavender and cinnamon sugar. “We are one of the larger home fragrance companies in the United States,” Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Joe Williams says. “We have been very successful by being able to maintain a small group of key executives.”

The Paper StoreKnowing what’s hot and offering unique customer experiences have helped expand The Paper Store’s empire by 22 stores in two years. (Photo credit: Nathan Ekis) By Kat Zeman

They don’t want you to feel like a black cat in a coal cellar – or a white cat in a snowstorm. You’re special.

If you wait in the checkout line for more than four minutes, they believe they’ve failed you. On social media, they try to respond to requests within seven minutes.

The Paper Store’s retail philosophy revolves around time management and offering consumers positive and memorable experiences that make them feel like individuals. “Our customer’s time is precious,” President and CEO Tom Anderson says. “It is our intention that the customer never experiences the ‘needle in a haystack’ approach when they shop with us.”

FAFFAF has a unique approach to the fashion jewelry and accessories business. (Photo by Lisa Hancock.) By Alan Dorich

Fashion Accessories First (FAF) views challenges as opportunities, according to Principal and Chief Development Officer JoEllen Fiorenzano. “Many of our retail partners come to FAF with challenges they’re having from the ever changing business climate,” she says. “They are looking for solutions. FAF works cross functionally to provide solutions and drive opportunities.”

Greenville, R.I.-based FAF designs and markets fashion jewelry and accessories. Principal Arthur Fiorenzano co-founded the company with his father in 1975 as a manufacturer of fashion jewelry. “In the early years, we became one of the largest domestic suppliers for wholesalers and service companies that were focused on mass, mid-tier and specialty department stores,” Fiorenzano says. In the mid ‘80s, the company began selling directly to retailers who were interested in factory direct pricing.

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