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The Distance

Updated 4 days ago

Business
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Business News
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What's the hardest thing about business? Not going out of business. The Distance features stories of private businesses that have been operating for at least 25 years and the people who got them there. Hear business owners share their stories of hard work, survival and building something that lasts. The Distance is a production of Basecamp, the company behind the leading project management app.

Read more

What's the hardest thing about business? Not going out of business. The Distance features stories of private businesses that have been operating for at least 25 years and the people who got them there. Hear business owners share their stories of hard work, survival and building something that lasts. The Distance is a production of Basecamp, the company behind the leading project management app.

iTunes Ratings

96 Ratings
Average Ratings
87
3
1
1
4

Happy, heart warming, and not too long

By Davesss123 - Mar 16 2016
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Fifteen minutes of wonderful family business stories. Thankfully, none of them are about tech!

Great stories

By Da Chipsta - Mar 02 2016
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Very much enjoy your podcast, very well produced! Eagerly anticipate every one.

iTunes Ratings

96 Ratings
Average Ratings
87
3
1
1
4

Happy, heart warming, and not too long

By Davesss123 - Mar 16 2016
Read more
Fifteen minutes of wonderful family business stories. Thankfully, none of them are about tech!

Great stories

By Da Chipsta - Mar 02 2016
Read more
Very much enjoy your podcast, very well produced! Eagerly anticipate every one.
Cover image of The Distance

The Distance

Updated 4 days ago

Read more

What's the hardest thing about business? Not going out of business. The Distance features stories of private businesses that have been operating for at least 25 years and the people who got them there. Hear business owners share their stories of hard work, survival and building something that lasts. The Distance is a production of Basecamp, the company behind the leading project management app.

Rank #1: Grave Matters

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The Peter Troost Monument Company has been making grave markers, headstones and mausoleums in the Chicago area since 1889. The issue of longevity has a particular resonance for fifth-generation president Lisa Troost, who knows that the product she sells is a one-time purchase that is meant to last forever.

Oct 27 2015

15mins

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Rank #2: Humble Adobe

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Santa Fe, New Mexico is home to around 200 art galleries. Even in this thriving art scene, Nedra Matteucci's gallery stands out. The 44-year-old gallery, which she bought in 1988, is housed in an adobe compound spanning two acres, and the business takes a grounded approach to fine art. If visiting the Nedra Matteucci Galleries feels like you're stepping into someone's home, it's because Nedra, a New Mexico native who got her start selling paintings on the road, has made approachability part of the overall experience.

Jun 21 2016

15mins

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Rank #3: A Lively Conversation, Part 1

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We're trying something new with this episode. It's a conversation between business owners on different ends of the experience spectrum. Sisters Anne Pezalla and Kate Pezalla Marlin opened their women's athletic apparel and running shoe boutique, Lively Athletics, in 2014. They're at the start of their entrepreneurial journey and wanted to get some advice from Paul McKenna, who's been running a sandwich shop and catering business called Starship since 1977. You'll hear Anne, Kate and Paul discuss growth, competition, burnout and other issues facing small business owners.

Jun 07 2016

15mins

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Rank #4: Resurrection Mary

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With 95 years of history behind it, the Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs, Ill. has seen many generations of dancers come and go. One dancer in particular has stuck around: Resurrection Mary, the ghost of a young woman who's reputed to haunt the ballroom and the area around it. She's one of the region's most well-known spooky legends.

May 31 2016

7mins

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Rank #5: (rerun) - If These Cubicle Walls Could Talk

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The modern office has gone from private offices to cubicles, and from cube farms to more open spaces with lower partitions. All those changes have been good business for Office Furniture Resources, which is marking 25 years of buying and reselling the chairs, desks and cubicles that make up American offices. OFR operates in an industry that’s completely behind the scenes yet touches the lives of workers everywhere.

Jan 03 2017

16mins

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Rank #6: A Lively Conversation, Part 2

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In the second half of the conversation between Paul McKenna of Starship restaurant and Anne Pezalla and Kate Pezalla Marlin of Lively Athletics, the business owners talk social media, the dark side of coupons and what's next.

Jun 14 2016

12mins

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Rank #7: The Bales Girls

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Stacey Bales has worked in almost every department at her family manufacturing business, from the front office to the shop floor. But when it came to running the entire company, she expected her father, Steve, to do that for at least another decade. That all changed with Steve Bales' sudden passing in 2009. Stacey and her sister, Sara, found themselves in charge of the business without their father, boss and mentor. Today, they're building on Steve Bales' legacy while crafting their own vision for the company.

Oct 13 2015

15mins

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Rank #8: Keeping Those Refrigerators Running

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In the early 80s, long before he became the CEO of LION, his family-owned manufacturing company, Steve Schwartz ran his college fraternity's refrigerator rental business. Fridges are a far cry from LION's core business of making protective gear for firefighters, but that early experience gave Steve his first taste of entrepreneurism.

Apr 19 2016

2mins

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Rank #9: The Business Cycle, Part 1

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Worksman Cycles is the oldest American bicycle manufacturer that still makes its products in the U.S. Founded in New York in 1898, Worksman has outlasted the demise of American cycle manufacturing by focusing on a niche category: heavy duty tricycles that factory workers use for hauling equipment and getting around industrial plants. And Worksman's president is determined to keep the company in the U.S., even as that commitment has been tested through the years.

May 23 2017

19mins

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Rank #10: Independent Women

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Throw your hands up at me! In 1979, Ann Christopherson and Linda Bubon opened a store in Chicago to sell books by and about women. Their business, Women & Children First, became a place where emerging writers could be discovered, a safe space for women to discuss issues important to them, and a neighborhood institution that survived the rise and decline of large chain bookstores. Ann and Linda sold Women & Children First in 2014 to staff members Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck, who are continuing the store's mission of being independent, literary, political—and sustainable.

Mar 29 2016

15mins

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Rank #11: Ideal Box Co.

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When Al Capone needed crates to smuggle liquor to his speakeasies, he bought boxes from a Chicago manufacturer called Ideal Box Co. Today, the company is run the Eisen brothers, whose great-grandfather started the business in 1924, and the Eisens are shaping a future that goes way beyond corrugated boxes. Ideal makes the point-of-purchase displays that dot the ends of supermarket aisles and beckon consumers into making impulse purchases. The Eisens believe that specializing in displays is the way out of the commoditized brown box.
For more on Ideal, including photos, check out https://thedistance.com/ideal-box-co.

Mar 05 2015

9mins

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Rank #12: Ancient History, Modern Family

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As students of history, Harlan Berk and his three children know that circumstances around them can change rapidly. They've learned to adapt the family business through 51 years of buying and selling ancient coins, as well as antiquities and maps. From rare artifacts to a mystery involving long-lost valuables and the FBI, there's no telling what might turn up next at Harlan J. Berk Limited.

Sep 29 2015

16mins

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Rank #13: Rainbow Connection

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Opening an ice cream store in Chicago is not for the faint of heart. Factor in a mostly deserted neighborhood and the Great Depression, and the idea of selling ice cream looks utterly harebrained. Yet that's exactly what the Sapp family did in 1926 when they started Original Rainbow Cone, and their signature treat—five flavors arranged in diagonal slabs—has come to symbolize spring and summer for generations of Chicagoans who grew up on the city's south side.

Mar 15 2016

14mins

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Rank #14: Farming Like the Joneses

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The Jones family has been farming in Iowa for generations. They have weathered tough winters, the consolidation of small family farms and the farm crisis of the 1980s. Today, 29-year-old Will Jones is in charge, and he's melding his own vision for the family business with the collective wisdom of predecessors like his father.

Sep 15 2015

19mins

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Rank #15: Always Glad You Came

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Bill Carlson describes his business as "a little shot and a beer bar," but the 61-year-old Uptown Tavern has always been more than a dive. It's a place where third-shift workers can unwind in the early morning and where people without a place to go on Thanksgiving can come in for a free turkey dinner. Bill, a veteran bartender, knows that even a humble tavern needs to keep evolving to survive.

Jan 19 2016

13mins

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Rank #16: A 102-Year Winning Streak

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Bowlers Journal International is the longest-running sports monthly in the United States, and it's a print magazine that's held on to a remarkably loyal base of subscribers and advertisers since its founding in 1913 by a Chicago shoe salesman. Of all the stories Bowlers Journal has told, the most enduring is that of its own longevity and close relationship with its readers.

Jan 05 2016

16mins

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Rank #17: Victory Auto Wreckers

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Chicagoans of a certain age can recall growing up with the Victory Auto Wreckers television commercial, a low-budget ad that seemed to run endlessly on afternoons and late nights. It turns out that 30-second spot, featuring a shaggy haired guy whose car door falls off, wasn't just a childhood fever dream. Victory Auto Wreckers, an auto salvage yard founded in 1945, ran the same commercial on local airwaves for 30 years. But the business is ready for a new ad to accompany a bigger image transformation, from dirty junkyard to modern recycling center.
To see photos and watch the classic commercial, visit https://thedistance.com/victory-auto-wreckers.

Apr 07 2015

9mins

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Rank #18: High Fidelity

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Some of the audio world's most revered headphones come out of a narrow, graffiti-covered house in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood. Grado Labs has been handcrafting phono cartridges and headphones at this location for six decades and remains under family ownership. Both vinyl and high-end headphones are having a moment right now, and that's keeping this long-running business as busy as ever.

Jul 07 2015

13mins

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Rank #19: Bootstrapped and Proud

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As an urban metropolis east of the Mississippi River, Chicago might seem like an unlikely home for a purveyor of cowboy hats, boots and shirts. Yet Alcala's Western Wear has flourished in the Windy City for over four decades, building a massive selection and a knack for customer service. For the Alcala family, now in its second generation of ownership, western wear has proved to be much more than a fashion fad.

Feb 16 2016

15mins

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Rank #20: Clothes Call

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When the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, Jim Piko Jr. wasn't just thrilled as a longtime fan of the team. Marathon Sportswear, the screen printing company his father started in the family garage in 1980, began printing tens of thousands of officially licensed Cubs t-shirts as soon as the team won the championship. It was the equivalent of a farmer's bumper crop for Jim. Being prepared for that moment took weeks of advance preparation—and years of slowly building a business, one t-shirt at a time.

Dec 06 2016

14mins

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