We founded our company based on the successes of such independent operators as Dick Gromer. Gromer's competitive strategy -- and ours, for that matter -- against the onslaught of megastores and superstores is to outinnovate, outmaneuver, and outmanage the competition, not in massive purchasing power to sheer store size, but in the day-to-day operations of our business.

Our competitive advantage is in our ability to take former chain-related managers and department managers and provide a creative medium for them, one that rewards and encourages a quick response to operations, merchandising, and consumer-relations problems.

The open question for the industry and for us is whether this hands-on approach is possible on a regional and national scale. Can we create the same environment Dick has built in 10 cities, 1,000 miles apart? Will an Atlanta delicatessen manager have the same enthusiasm for his department and his customers that our Boston deli manager has? The test for us and for Gromer-type operations is whether the same ability to manage a small business is transferable on a large scale. Stay tuned.