INDEPENDENTS FIND STRENGTH IN SHARING

SAN MATEO, Calif. -- For a group of West Coast independent retailers, running their businesses is all about building relationships -- with customers, employees, vendors and, most surprisingly, each other.

Although some of the retailers actually compete against each other, they have managed to eliminate the distrust that used to exist among them and have united to fight what they see as their common foe -- upscale retailers like Whole Foods, Costco and Trader Joe's.

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