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CSA reveals winners of 2024 Breakout Retailer Awards

SPECS 2024 Breakout Retailer Awards
CSA’s Breakout Retailer Award winners, left to right, Jay Batista, Stantec (awards sponsor); Joe Palermo, Chicken N Pickle; Peter Corsa, American Freight; Tom Trkla, Yesway; and Adam Herstig, Lids.
SPECS 2024 Breakout Retailer Awards
CSA’s Breakout Retailer Award winners, left to right, Jay Batista, Stantec (awards sponsor); Joe Palermo, Chicken N Pickle; Peter Corsa, American Freight; Tom Trkla, Yesway; and Adam Herstig, Lids.

Chain Store Age is excited to announce the winners of its annual Breakout Retailer Awards.

Selected by Chain Store Age editors and industry consultants, the winning lineup for 2024 includes American Freight, Chicken N Pickle, Lids and Yesway. The 2024 awards, sponsored by architecture and design engineering firm Stantec, were presented at Chain Store Age’s 60th annual SPECS Show, March 10-12, in Grapevine, Texas. 

“The Breakout Retailer Award recognizes retail, restaurant and non-traditional specialty concepts that are investing in innovation and growth in brick-and-mortar,” said CSA editor-in-chief Marianne Wilson. “The honored companies understand the critical role physical retail in today’s omnichannel world.”

Senior executives from the brands were on hand at SPECS to accept the awards on behalf of their companies and to share insights into their companies during a special panel discussion.

Accepting the awards were:

Peter Corsa, CEO of  the home segment of FRG Inc., parent company of American Freight; 

Joe Palermo, VP of operations, Chicken’n Pickle; 

Adam Herstig, VP marketing, Lids; and

Tom Trkla, chairman and CEO, Yesway.

Here’s a look at this year Breakout Retailer companies.

American Freight

American Freight 

American Freight was born of humble beginnings that go back to 1994 when its founder would buy truck loads of American-made  merchandise and sell the goods straight off the loading dock. It’s come a long way since then. 

American Freight operates more than 370 warehouse-styled stores nationwide, with an assortment that includes a wide variety of furniture, mattresses and appliances from national brands. 

Targeting value-conscious consumers, the chain is widely known for its selection of open-box appliances, which include imperfect products with cosmetic damages such as scratches and dents as well as items that have gone through mechanical repair. 

All product is restored to manufacturer specs and sold at a fraction of its original price — with a one year warranty. In another major point of distinction, all in-stock items at American Freight are available for same-day delivery.

American Freight is coming off a busy and, in many ways, transformative year as it put an increased emphasis on the in-store customer experience. In December, it launched a new store format that offers an updated look-and-feel, with new signage, a more spacious layout and enhanced product storytelling for open-box appliances, featuring a color-coded system that helps customers understand the exact condition of each open-box item.

The brand refresh also includes augmented reality technology that lets shoppers visualize how furniture will look in their own home before purchasing. 

American Freight is piloting the new format in select stores, with plans to start rolling it out nationwide beginning in the third quarter.

With its emphasis on value, American Freight sees a long runway for growth, with the potential to grow up to 1,000 locations eventually.

Chicken N Pickle

Chicken N Pickle 

Chicken N Pickle is a startup that serves the  nation’s fastest-growing sport: pickelball. family-friendly indoor/outdoor destination. Locations combine a casual restaurant and sports bar with pickleball courts and no-fee lawn games. 

With backers that include NFL stars Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes, Chicken N Pickle is just getting started. It recently opened its 10th location and has six more in the works, including one in Henderson, Nevada, outside of Las Vegas.

The newest Chicken N Pickle is sprawling 70,000-sq.-ft. location in Webster Texas that boasts six indoor and two outdoor pickleball courts as  well as shuffleboard courts. There’s also a beer garden, dining areas that span two floors multiple bars and an outdoor game yard featuring everything from corn hole to bocce ball. 

Chicken n Pickle has a decidedly no-tech vibe. There are no video games on site. One of its locations boasts a dog park. 

With a slogan of “our hearts are local,” the young company prides itself on investing in the communities it serves. It connect with nonprofits in all of the locations it enters through a full-time community impact coordinator who looks for ways to make a positive impact in the community. 

Chicken N Pickle is also passionate about making each location as welcoming as possible. It has wheelchairs at all its sites and can make accommodations for those who are neurodivergent and might need a different ball or empty courts next to them in order to play.



Long-time mall staple, Lids is the largest licensed sports retailer in North America, selling fan and headwear and related items across 1,000 U.S. stores — along with hundreds of international doors.

As Lids continues to expand its core brick-and-mortar footprint, it also continues to innovate — be it through larger-than-life flagships such as a 12,000 sq.-ft. store on the Las Vegas Strip, partnerships or new store concepts. 

Among its more recent partnerships is an expanded one with Paris Saint Germain —  one of the world’s top football clubs — to open and operate one-of-kind club stores in the U.S. and abroad. In December, Lids opened the largest Paris Saint Germain store in the world, on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The club has said it sees massive potential for future development in the U.S. 

In another partnership, Lids recently opened a NBA store at the Houston Galleria. The NBA has more than 400 branded  stores and attractions across the world, including flagship in New York City, London, Paris and Berlin, all of which are operated by Lids

The retailer’s  newest brick-and-mortar concept was actually born on its website. In 2022, the retailer launched Lids Hat Drop dot com, featuring limited edition head gear, with collections "dropped" in limited quantities once a week. Based on its success — drops sell out in minutes —  Lids decided to translate the model to physical retail. 

The Lids Hat Drop store operates similar to its e-commerce counterpart, offering exclusive and limited-edition releases, including notable athlete and celebrity collaborations. 

Customers have first access to purchase exclusive hat drops beginning at 11:00 am each Friday, before the collection becomes available on the e-commerce platform at noon the same day. The store also includes related apparel and other  merchandise. And, as at most Lids stores, the space features a customization area where shoppers  can personalize their purchases.

Yesway has opened its 425th store.


Yesway describes itself as one of the  fastest-growing convenience store chains in the country  — and the numbers back it up.

The company was founded  in 2015 by Brookward Financial Partners, a real estate private equity firm. In less than a decade, Yesway has expanded through acquisitions and building new stores to over four hundred locations in the Southwest and parts of the Midwest. 

The retailer, which operates stores primarily under its namesake and Allsup's banners, has innovated with different formats, including a larger-size one. It also introduced a smaller-size concept Allsup's Express, with the first location across from the campus of Texas Tech University. The 3,000-sq.-ft. bodega-style store has a merchandise assortment tailored to meet student needs, ranging from hot to-go meals to wine and beer.   

The company has also gone even smaller..unveiling a new concept last year Allsup’s Express Grab and Go inside Gate 4 on the main concourse at the Texas Motor Speedway, which hosts NASCAR events, IndyCar races, concerts and more. The 1,600-sq.-ft. store stocks plenty of easy-to-carry  snacks and quick foodservice options to ensure fans miss as little of the action as possible.

In other moves, Yesway is using technology to deliver personalized, hassel-free experiences to customers. Its updated rewards program lets members simply swipe their card or mobile app at the register and pump to earn points that can be redeemed for in store merchandise, gas savings and exclusive deals.

Yesway sees plenty of room for expansion, expecting to build more than 40 stores a year. It’s currently on track to open new stores in rural and suburban locations around the Fort Worth and  Dallas area. It’s also targeting Oklahoma, where it has  several stores under construction — including its first  ever location on an interstate — and others about to  break ground soon. Additional stores are in the pipeline.

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