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How retail connects a community: Susan Kaufman's "This is Retail" story

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In cities large and small, it's often retailers that act as the community watering hole. These brick-and-mortar stores serve as an informal way for people to catch-up, gossip or reflect. Today's "This is Retail" spotlight is a perfect case-in-point. Nearly a year ago, Top 5 finalist Susan Kaufman from Market Alley Wines left her career to start a wine shop and lounge in her hometown where people could gather, relax and shop. Born from a passion for great wine, food and people, her store thrives on creating an enjoyable and memorable experience for her customers. Flash forward to 2012, where Susan is in the heart of a nationwide contest - and proving just how powerful a small town can be.

Home to around 71,000 people, the Monmouth, Illinois region can be politely dubbed a "micropolitan area", with slightly more than 9,400 living in the City of Monmouth. In terms of population size, it is by far the smallest remaining city in the contest (Baltimore, MD, Columbia, SC, Honolulu, HI and Tallahassee, FL are the others). But small town doesn't mean small hearts. Monmouth has shown tremendous support for Market Alley Wines, and thanks to the extra buzz generated from the contest, it's quickly becoming a popular hometown destination.

Susan credits much of her Top 5 finalist success to her “wonderful, energized customers” who come into the store where she has set up computers to cast votes. This week she printed business cards specifically for the contest and dropped them off at local businesses for support. Even on vacation, she's taken her energy on the road and solicited help from some new found friends in New Orleans. Monmouth’s Director of Community Development believes this competition will get more people interested in the town and help to make it a true destination within the state.

As evident from interviews on her local radio  station WGIL, hometown paper Galesburg Register-Mail and her alma mater Western Illinois University, the entire Monmouth community is rooting for Susan – and for good reason. If Market Alley Wines takes home the big prize, Susan has plans for a large community party to celebrate. She also has hopes of starting a jazz and wine festival in Monmouth that brings in more people and gives back to the community.

Check out Susan’s video and how Market Alley Wines is strongly supported in the Monmouth community and surrounding areas. Remember to visit to select your favorite video and decide which “This is Retail” video should be named the Best Retail Story in America.