Since it opened in early May, sales have been better at Tom Schmutz’s new store in Herrin, Illinois, than what Save-A-Lot projected.
“When the mayor toured our store, he said there was a lot of buzz around it,” Schmutz said. “He asked if we were going to have fresh meat with cutters. I took him back into the cutting room and showed him all of our meat cutters who have a total of 120 years of experience as butchers. He looked at me and smiled and said, ‘That’s going to work out good.’”
Two months before their new store was to open, however, Tom and his wife, Beverly, were hit by a car as they crossed the street in front of their store to go to lunch. Tom had to be airlifted for treatment, and Beverly continues to suffer from the back and neck injuries she suffered that day.
“Beverly is also the farmer in the family,” Schmutz said. “We grow corn and soybeans and have a herd of cattle. She runs the farm in addition to handling the banking for the stores.”
Tom credits his exceptional staff for helping them to open as planned.
“My management people really took over and kept things moving in the right direction,” he said.
And when the store did open, the reception from the community was overwhelming.
“We had more sales the second day than we did the first,” Schmutz said. “That never happens. I think this area is kind of starved for a limited-assortment discount operator like Save-A-Lot.”
The Schmutz family owns an Ace Hardware and four other conventional type grocery stores but became interested in the Save-A-Lot format several years ago. Schmutz began doing research and, after going through training with Save-A-Lot, he became convinced that it would be a good move.
“We felt so positive about the Save-A-Lot format,” he said.
Tom also strongly believes in the power of his Illinois Food Retailers Association (IFRA) membership.
“You shouldn’t own a store in Illinois and not be a member of IFRA,” he said. “They continue to fight for and represent the independent grocer. We couldn’t do it by ourselves.”
The Schmutz family first joined IFRA in 2014.
“It’s great to see the growth trajectory of this family business that has occurred in a relatively short period of time,” said IFRA President Brian Jordan. “We appreciate their involvement in the association and look forward to their nomination to the IFRA board in the not-too-distant future.”
For Tom Schmutz, his success in business enables him to meet the people in his community every day, something he truly enjoys.
“The grocery business is still a people business,” he said. “Of course, we’re trying to sell products, but you get a chance to meet and talk to thousands of people. Many industries are going to the internet. But we’re lucky enough to have people who come to the bricks and mortar.”