Keeping their business a family affair

A lot has changed for E & F Sauder Sales and Service Ltd. since they first opened their doors in Wallenstein 35 years ago, but one thing will always remain the same: “Honesty is number one for sure. Trust in people means a lot,” says Elo Sauder.

Last updated on May 04, 23

Posted on Oct 22, 10

3 min read

A lot has changed for E & F Sauder Sales and Service Ltd. since they first opened their doors in Wallenstein 35 years ago, but one thing will always remain the same: “Honesty is number one for sure. Trust in people means a lot,” says Elo Sauder.

It’s an idea shared by his wife Florence as well.

“The most important thing is honesty,” she said.

The importance of that mantra is a testament to their ongoing success as a family business. The Sauders sell chainsaws and other logging equipment, lawn and garden equipment and also do repairs on small engines; they are celebrating 35 years in business with an open house celebration today (Saturday) from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

That ethic has also worn off on their oldest son, Darrell.

“The key is to always remember that we want to treat our customers as I would like to be treated,” he explained. “Somebody can come to our business and they know we’re not there to rip them off, and that we’re giving them a fair deal, and that we’re not fixing something that doesn’t have to be fixed.”

THEY'VE COME A LONG WAY Elo and Florence Sauder have seen business grow dramatically since founding E & F Sauder Sales and Service 35 years ago. The couple's oldest son, Darrell, is gradually taking over the day-to-day operations.

E&F Sauder has rather humble roots. The building was originally property of the Wallenstein General Store across the road. When the owner was looking to sell both properties back in 1975, Elo and Florence purchased one of the lots on Herr-gott Road in September of that year.

When they first opened their doors for business, they only had a small portion of their current 5,000 square feet of space, and much of it was taken up by old rabbit cages. Florence recalls they only had a few chain saws for sale then, and admits to being at a little worried about being able to feed their five children if the company struggled.

“I can remember the hopeless feeling of ‘we can open the doors, but if nobody comes, we won’t have any bread for our children.’”

But the family persevered – “Life is a challenge and that’s what we enjoy,” she said – and they have seen their business and their family prosper since they first opened in 1975.

Florence gave birth to two more children. And now Darrell has a family with five children of his own. Elo and Florence built the second floor to their shop in 1980,  moved from their home in Macton and built a house in Wallenstein in 1983. In the beginning, Elo did all the sales and all the mechanical work, while Florence did all the office work, but now they employ six full-time mechanics. Their shop has also grown from around 1,000 sq. ft. to about 5,000, and they deal with some of the biggest names in the outdoor equipment industry, including Stihl and Husqvarna. They also repair snowmobiles and four-wheelers during the slower times of the year, as well.

Their industry itself has also changed enormously.

Computer chips have replaced the old-fashioned screw driver method of adjusting the carburetor on a chainsaw, and new fuels – including ethanol – and new emissions requirements mean new challenges which the industry has never faced before, and which Elo could probably never have anticipated when he first started out.

Darrell said he has to attend classes every year to stay abreast of the new technology, or he risks falling behind.

Despite those changes, though, the company remains true to its family roots. Darrell is preparing to take over the company from his father, and has no major changes in mind.

“I’m very focused on what Mom and Dad have built all these years; to service the community and to be a business that can be trusted and honoured. Bigger isn’t always better, because then the fine details get missed.”

But Elo doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

“You might say I’m slowly going to phase out and give him more responsibilities as time goes on,” Elo said with a smile.

“He will probably tinker in here as long as he has his health,” Florence added of her 65-year-old husband.

It’s been a busy 35 years for the Sauder family – “a lot of hard work with many, many hours,” notes Florence – and they want to take the opportunity this weekend to thank their loyal customers and the community for their support.

“It’s been a blessing. It’s been wonderful to work together as husband and wife, and a real blessing to have our son follow our footsteps,” said Florence. “I know when we leave here, it will be in good hands.”

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James Jackson

James Jackson is a former full-time journalist / photographer at The Observer.

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