A Wienermobile and almost 1,000 hotdogs, is there a better way to celebrate a grocery store’s 40th anniversary?
On July 8, a visit from the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile helped the Gutzler family celebrate four decades of business at Highland’s Tru-Buy.
“We’ve seen parents, grandparents and their children and grandchildren shop at this store. It is pretty amazing. We know a lot of them by name,” said Tom Gutzler of Highland’s Tru-Buy.
However, the day was not only designated to celebrate their family’s heritage, but to help thank the customers who have loyally supported the store throughout the years.
“We gave away a lot of Oscar Mayer Wieners that day — nearly 1,000,” said Jean Milano, another Gutzler sibling.
Though the family was celebrating 40 years in business at Tru-Buy, their roots in the grocery business extend far beyond that.
As a young man, Wayne Gutzler, the father of the Gutzler sibilings, worked as a delivery boy at Kinne’s Tom-Boy Market, which was once located at the corner of Laurel and Main Streets on the Square. The building still stands today.
In 1957, Wayne and his brother Maurice Gutzler officially bought the business. Six years later, the brothers built the first new supermarket in Highland and attached the family name to the business. Gutzler’s Tom-Boy was located at Broadway and Cypress Street, in what is now the Family Video building. The store was 5,000 square feet.
“It was nothing like a supermarket is considered today,” Tom Gutzler said.
Nearing the end of the 1970s, box stores such as Aldi and Save-A-Lot started to become more popular. When Wayne Gutzler caught wind that, the Tom-Boy equivalent of these stores, Tru-Buy, was an option he decided to get ahead of the curve with in his home town. In July of 1978, Highland’s Tru-Buy was born.
In May of 2001, Wayne Gutzler passed away. Gutzler’s Tom-Boy would close about a year later. But even with the store’s closing, Wayne would leave behind a legacy that continues to reach through generations of families.
“We’re so proud of what dad did,” Milano said.
He could not have left the business in better hands, because the Gutzler siblings had cut their teeth in the grocery business, starting at a very young age.
“We used to sort soda bottles so companies could pick them up. That was one of our first jobs,” Tom Gutzler said.
Tom is one of eight siblings, six of which are involved in the day-to-day operations of Tru-Buy, and each of them have taken on about every job there is to do in the business.
“It’s in our blood. It really is,” Milano said.
When the store first opened, the Gutzlers recalled that Tru-Buy’s inventory was much smaller than it is today. So much so, that all of the grocery checkers were able to memorize all of the item prices. The business also took a little bit of time to take off.
“It was slow at first,” Milano said.
But, the Gutzlers knew how to get it going.
The business was the first grocery store in Highland to use scanners at checkout registers. This advancement helped up their game by allowing them to avoid remarking every piece of inventory for specials or price changes.
In 2002, the grocery store also added a meat department, which is now a staple of Highland’s Tru-Buy, according to the Gutzlers.
Jim Gutzler, another sibling who manages the store, said he credits a lot of Tru-Buy’s success to being involved in the community. On behalf of Tru-Buy, Gutzler said that he joined many local organizations to promote the business.
Today, Tru-Buy is interwoven in the community and supports many functions, including local clubs, events and festivals. It is more than common for the business to provide space for weekend barbeques on the storefront in support of a charitable cause, according to the Gutzlers. But, getting the business going was not the only motivation for giving back.
The Gutzlers said their father taught them that one of the fundamental pillars of business is to give back to the customers who help to put food on their table.
“We take care to give people a low price option on our products and offer the customer service that you won’t get in other stores that may offer prices that low,” Tom Gutzler said.
And the service speaks for itself, because people keep coming back for more.
Harold Blumberg of Marine said he has shopped at Tru-Buy since it first opened its doors, though he has shopped with the Gutzlers long before that. Though he said he sometimes shops at Aldi and other stores, Blumberg said that he has great luck finding everything he needs at reasonable prices and receives friendly service.
“It’s better than anywhere else,” Blumberg said.
Katie Maples, who has shopped at Tru-Buy for about 13 to 14 years, said she agreed with Blumberg.
“I like shopping at Tru-Buy because the prices are really reasonable, the staff is really friendly and helpful,” Maples said.
Bev and Bill Klostermann also have shopped at Tru-Buy since the store has opened. They said they like the produce department and that they can find items at Tru-Buy that they cannot find anywhere else.
“We really like their cherry-chip cake mixes here, and this is the only place we can find them in town. My daughter always has me pick one up because she can never find them,” Klostermann said.
But, even with their effort toward customer service, the Gutzlers said that they cannot give enough back to their loyal customers and could never thank them enough for their 40 years of business at Tru-Buy, and longer at other locations.
“We would not be here without them,” Milano said.