The economy’s long malaise may have zapped a lot of the industry’s material good fortune—certainly, sales, margins and customer counts have all taken heavy hits. But it did not crush the entrepreneurial spirit on which the industry is built. If anything, the downturn has provided a canvas for some daring and innovative operators to unleash their creativity in unexpected ways—and sometimes turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse jangling with money. Need proof? It can ...

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