BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — After 50 years at Sautter’s Market, Rick Eisel is hanging up his apron.
On January 3, the longtime meat and deli manager said goodbye to coworkers and customers at the Waterville store as he retired from a career that started on December 19, 1969 in the Sylvania store.
“I’ve really enjoyed the people I’ve worked with,” he said.
Growing up in Berkey, Rick was one of 10 siblings, including several who worked for the Sautter’s Market in Sylvania.
“They were really busy at the holidays and needed help. Bob Sautter Sr. asked my brothers if they had any other siblings. He liked the way my brothers worked,” Rick recalled.
His brother Mike celebrated 50 years with Sautter’s in 2018 and continues to serve as the manager of the Waterville store, which opened in 1971. Siblings Ray, Margie and Theresa have also worked for Sautter’s.
While he started carrying out groceries as a 15-year-old, Rick was quickly moved into the meat department, where Bob Sr. taught him how to cut the meat in a way that gave the customer the highest quality, Rick said.
“He had a special way that Bob and Jim still hold to today,” he said.
By 1973, Rick was promoted to assistant manager in the meat-deli department, and in 1979, to manager.
A lot has changed in 50 years, Rick said. In the 1980s, the last meat-cutting school in the country, located in Toledo, closed, so all meat cutters learned like he did – on the job. While Sautter’s used to have hanging beef in order to make special cuts, most of those local companies that supplied the beef closed.
Instead, Sautter’s began getting its meat in sealed boxes, but ordered only the higher grade meats that could be trimmed to meat their higher standards.
“We opened it to make sure it met our standards or we sent it back,” Rick said.
While Rick’s favorite cuts are rib-eye and tenderloin on the grill, he hears about and shares customer ideas for steaks, chicken and other deli items. Over the years, many of those customers’ children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have continued shopping at Sautter’s.
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know the customers. Bob and his dad wanted us to know the names of every customer,” he said.
While some customers have said they don’t know how the meat department will do without him, Rick is confident: Wauseon native Alex Stuck, who has been in the industry for several years, has been training in the Sautter’s standards for the past six months.
“He knows what he’s doing and he’s also great with people,” Rick said.
In retirement, Rick plans to spend some time woodworking, doing home repairs and relaxing with his wife, Carol. They met at age 16 while both were working at Sautter’s and began dating three years later after a New Year’s Eve party brought several employees together.
While Rick won’t be driving in to work any more, he’s adamant about where he will do his grocery shopping.
“There’s only one place I buy my meat and I will continue to buy in the future,” he said.