Staying calm and carrying on

Interview with Bob Sautter, co-owner of Sautter’s Market

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If running the most essential of businesses during a pandemic that closed down your community doesn’t rattle you, there is likely nothing much that will. During a year of unexpected product shortages, customers filling the parking lot before opening hours, half empty delivery trucks, increased county health inspections and unexpected sales growth, Bob Sautter, co-owner of Sautter’s Markets with his brother Jim, talks about 2020 as if it was any other year.  During a time when a lot of people were on edge, Bob Sautter stayed calm and carried on.

Four generations of providing the
essentials to their customers

Sautter’s Markets were started by Bob’s grandfather Ray in 1927.  In a grocery industry that now is dominated by superstores and wholesalers, Sautter’s has found a unique balance of offering the best products from big box store competitors while prioritizing a personalized customer experience. Sautter’s in-house butcher offers fresh cut meat daily; their comprehensive wine shops stock an impressive selection; they sell specialty and local product lines and listen to customer requests to order hard to find items. With two locations, one in Sylvania and one in Waterville, both markets make it a priority to ensure that customers feel at home while doing their grocery shopping.

Sautter’s Markets have been a community staple for three generations. And with Bob’s nephew, David Sautter, joining the family business, the Sautter family will continue to be an essential part of the Toledo area for years to come.

Creating Family

 Bob oversees the operations of the Waterville store. When looking back over the last year, he relates that what he is most proud of is his employees. “Everyone stepped it up and stuck it out.” His team banded together to serve customers during a confusing and stressful time.

The employees’ dedication is not surprising, as they are seen as an extended family. Several employees have family members who have worked alongside them at Sautter’s for many years. “We hire good people,” Bob states, “I want our employees to wake up in the morning wanting to come to work.” Bob does not believe in micro-managing. “If you have good managers who are knowledgeable in their area of expertise, you need to trust them so they have a stake in the success of the store.”

Bob explains that the most rewarding part of his job is hiring young people who become “college managers,” providing them with an unofficial internship. Bob relies on these young people to do critical tasks such as opening and closing the store and managing fellow employees, thus giving them valuable work experience. “I enjoy selling groceries, but I enjoy even more watching my young people develop. To me that is way more rewarding than selling a can of beans.”

How did Sautter’s Markets begin?
My grandfather Ray Sautter opened our first market at the corner of Collingwood and Dorr.

Who inspires you?
My father Bob. He was a wise businessman who gave good advice. In 1959, he expanded the business by opening the Sylvania store. People thought he was crazy because at the time it was in the middle of nowhere, but he understood that the community would grow in that direction.

What are your interests beyond the doors of the grocery store?
Woodworking, fishing, puttering around my yard and being outside.

What would people be surprised to know about you? I was a wrestler in high school (DeVilbiss) and college (UT). Despite my first year on the wrestling team being my junior year, I went on to win the high school city and district championships and in my senior year of high school I came in third in the state It was a wonderful experience that taught me that I can set my intention with a positive mindset and just go for it. It gave me confidence and the knowledge that hard work pays off.

What is something you are proud of beyond your career? At the age of 61, I went back to school and earned a Master’s in Organizational Leadership from Lourdes University. I had a blast!

Any final words for our readers? I am happy to serve the public and I am appreciative of all of the past and present employees who have contributed to our success.