But here it comes.
I guarantee that any reader from anywhere can learn something from this book:
Retail Superstars: Inside the 25 Best Independent Stores in America, by retail guru
These are stores that, literally, give new meaning to the word "special." That personify one of my "Top 10 Favorite Quotes," from Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead): "You don't want to be merely the best. You want to be the only ones who do what you do."
We start, naturally, in Fairfield, Ohio, home to Jungle Jim's International Market. The adventure in "shoppertainment" begins in the parking lot, and goes on to 1,600 cheeses and, yes, 1,400 varieties of hot sauce—not to mention 12,000 wines priced from the very bottom to $8,000 a bottle; all this is brought to you from 4,000 vendors from around the world. Like virtually all the stores in this book, customers arrive from every corner of the globe.
There's Abt Electronics in Chicago, Zabar's in Manhattan, and Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frakenmuth, Michigan—a town of just 5,000 whose 98,000-square-foot "shop" features the likes of 6,000 Christmas ornaments, 50,000 trims, and anything else you can name if it pertains to Christmas.
There's the Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
And Junkman's Daughter in Atlanta, and Smoky Mountain Knife Works in Sevierville, Tennessee.
We finish the tour where we started—in Ohio. This time we visit Hartville Hardware in Hartville, OH.
These stores demonstrate-prove so many things:
You can create a worldwide attraction and thrive as an independent in the Age of the Big Box retailer.
You can do anything.
You can be from anywhere.
You can make any-damn-thing bizarrely-amazingly-stupendously special.
"Customer care" gets a new definition.
"Showmanship" gets a new definition.
If you run a training department ... you can learn from this book.
If you run a sales department of 1 or 101 people ... you can learn from this book.
If you run a purchasing department ... DEDICATED TO INTERNAL CUSTOMER CARE ... you can learn from this book.
You can learn about Special.
You can learn about being "the only ones who do what we do."
You can learn about Leadership.
You can learn about "experience marketing."
You can learn about the irrelevance of Supersized Competitors ... if you are special enough.
You can learn about Sustaining EXCELLENCE.
Inside the 25 Best Independent Stores in America gives new meaning to my trademark phrase:
If not EXCELLENCE, What?
As I said, perhaps for the first time:
I guarantee that any reader engaged in any activity, who wants to, can learn from this book.
[Note from Cathy: Tom says the fun starts in the parking lot, but I say it starts on the websites. With a sole exception (Junkman's Daughter), every one of the links in this post leads to an exciting website with fantastic images and plenty of good stuff on offer. And if you want a sword, I know where you can get one.]