An accountant and elementary school teacher by trades, Jon Sanders and his wife Lori took a sharp turn in 2010 when they tabled their careers and entered the retail world. That’s when the couple took the keys to Reef Convenience Store, Spring Lake, Mich.

“When I hire someone, I look for a person that can connect with customers.”

Located in a small town along the Lake Michigan shoreline, Jon says he relies on his employees to welcome and entice his clientele of tourists, boaters, fishermen and cottagers looking for more than the standard c-store fare.

“I’m seeing an increase in demand for craft and small-batch liquor,” he says, “especially bourbon.”

His “biggest selling point,” however, “is our staff. When I hire someone, I look for a person that can connect with customers. I stress getting to know customers by name, engaging in conversation with them if possible, getting to know them and their families, being honest with them and letting them know they’re appreciated.”

The result? “We have customers going out of their way to pass on our competitors to come to our store because of this,” Sanders says. “If somebody wants an item that we don’t carry, we get it if we can, which results in return visits and becoming regulars.”