Highland News Leader

Know Your Neighbor: The Trenton House owner Todd Rutz

Confucius is credited with having coined, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Todd Rutz, co-owner of The Trenton House, located at 2 E. Broadway in Trenton, enjoys his vocation so much it seems this axiom applies to him. And he endeavors to create a trickle-down effect to his employees by keeping an upbeat attitude.

Todd was born Jan. 17, 1962, in Grantfork to parents Kenneth and Mary Rutz. He was preceded in birth by three older sisters, Gail, Kris and Jody. Growing up on a farm and wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps, Todd willingly performed many farm chores such as milking cows and helping his father tend to their livestock and grain.

When not attending school or working on the farm, Todd played baseball, hunted quail and showed cattle on the open circuit. During his high school days at Highland High School, he played basketball, football and became involved in Future Farmers of America.

Todd graduated in 1980 and began working for Todd Uniform Service in their maintenance department; he later became a Teamster and became a delivery driver for the same company. By 1981, he had been transferred to Arizona and placed in sales, eventually becoming the district manager and was relocated to Detroit.

Not afraid of work, Todd also started working for the Diamond Mineral Springs Restaurant, where he obviously cut his teeth in the hospitality business. He later became an employee at Michael’s in Highland and then went to Nuby’s Steak House in Pocahontas, where he served up front, bartended and spent time in the back cooking. By then, he had whet his appetite for preparing and serving home cooked food.

He also discovered just how very much he liked people and making them happy.

He then teamed up with cousins Dwight and Vicki Rutz and opened the Galaxy Restaurant in Alhambra for 15 years and purchased and ran a bowling alley in Grantfork until 1986. He and his cousins later opened Popeye’s Chop House in St. Rose, which is still in operation after 35 years. A young lady, who was an employee at Popeye’s, Tammy Albers, also caught his eye.

Next comes The Trenton House

In 2004, they saw another opportunity. The Trenton House, which was established in 1890, became available after having been closed for two years. They came in and restored the aging edifice to its original condition, and were able to keep the nostalgic tin ceiling.

Also during this time, he married Tami on June 9, 2009, after 15 years of dating.

“She was strong-minded, a hard worker and had a tremendous personality,” said Todd. “I knew I had found the right person for me.”

Originally serving buffets and smorgasbords, Todd reinvented the menu, which now brings folks from far and near to indulge in fried chicken, prime rib, seafood and steaks, and potent potables, along with a bevy of sides and desserts. He has a minimal amount of turnover in staff and there is a reason for that.

Todd views his employees as family and a team and he persists in creating in each staffer the same passion of serving people with joy and expertise. Why does he believe this approach is so important?

‘Every day is a holiday’

“I view every day as a holiday,” said Todd.

And this motto is about to be reflected on the uniforms of the entire staff. Todd added, “workplace attitudes have an effect on every person in the organization, from the employees to the clients and even the company owner. Attitudes help to develop the prevailing workplace environment that determines employee morale, productivity and team building abilities.”

A study conducted by Quill revealed “your attitude is a form of expression of it yourself, you can choose to be happy, positive and optimistic or you can choose to be pessimistic and critical, with a negative outlook on your workday. A positive attitude helps you cope better under stressful situations at work. Workplace attitudes have an affect on every person in the organization, from the employees to the clients and even to the company owner. Attitudes help to develop the prevailing workplace environment that determines the employees morale, productivity and team-building abilities.”

What are the advantages of having a boss who views every day as a holiday? Employee and server Alli Wiebler said the benefits are “a positive environment that helps to achieve goals and career successes. There is stress reduction in management, better health, less sick days, increased productivity levels, produces more energy, improves customer relations and makes for better leadership skills for those who are going to make the hospitality business their career.”

Annually Todd hosts an employee party where he provides a sumptuous menu for all of his employees and their spouses or significant others. They play volleyball, cards, corn hole, disc golf, socialize and enjoy the company of one another.

“Even though I have been in the hospitality industry for a number of years, I’m still finding that I’m learning new tricks of the trade from Todd,” said Alli. “I wish everyone could have a boss and role model like Todd.”

Todd said he still puts in 70-80 hours weekly, but makes time to have coffee with his mother every morning at 5:30 a.m. and spend time with his daughter, Morgan. If he has spare time, he likes being outdoors and gardening.

“It’s easy to have a smile and be pleasant to others,” said Todd.