MEET KUTE: A SAVE A LOT LOVE STORY
by Jenny Kute, Save A Lot Retail Partner
It’s always been important to me and my family to find a sense of balance. In any relationship, no matter how seriously you take your career, it seems like a good idea to try not to be married to your work.
But honestly, that’s not quite how it’s worked out for me, or for my husband Craig.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
About 15 years ago, my husband and I decided to become business partners, opening and managing a Save A Lot location in Louisville, KY. Like the best stories, our journey has had its shares of drama and plot twists. But it’s been a page-turner, with the kind of happy ending that leaves me with a smile on my face every time I walk into our bustling store.
Allow me to share some highlights:
CHAPTER ONE – THE STORY BEGINS
Craig and I are originally from Louisville, but didn’t meet there. We ended up meeting each other more than 260 miles away from home, at Washington University in St. Louis. It’s strange that you’d go away to school to meet someone who basically lives in your backyard. But meet we did, dated throughout college, and ended up working in Alabama. We were saddled with college debt, and felt stuck in a life there we weren’t sure we wanted to live.
CHAPTER TWO – FATHER KNOWS BEST
It was then we received a phone call from my father, asking us to meet him in Nashville for lunch. My dad has been in the grocery business for over 50 years now, and had been one of the first Save A Lot retail partners in Louisville back in the 1990s. We didn’t know this at the time, but Save A Lot had come to him to talk about a new location. He didn’t want to take it on, but a light bulb must have gone off in his head. So here we were, at this mysterious lunch, when my father told us about his idea: Craig and I should move back to Louisville and open up our own Save A Lot.
CHAPTER THREE – THE DECISION
We thought about it for almost a year, researching the finances and considering our options. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. But it all came back to the lifestyle in which we wanted to raise a family. I thought about my father and the kind of life he led while I was growing up. He worked hard, but had the flexibility to be there for me and my siblings. He was at our ball games, worked from home when he could, and was there for us whenever we needed him. And as we looked deeper into it, we decided that what we wanted most for our family was control, flexibility, and stability. And opening a Save A Lot was the way to achieve all of that. So we moved back home, lived in Craig’s parent’s basement for a while, and saved every penny we could to get what we needed to make that store happen.
CHAPTER FOUR – THE OPENING
After months of renovations, we opened our Save A Lot in October 2005. I remember that first day well, we were scared out of our minds. Craig and I drove to the store that first morning at about 6AM, wondering whether anyone was going to even show up. But when we pulled into the parking lot, there was a line already waiting to get in. We took a deep breath, probably for the first time in weeks, and knew that things were going to be OK. The community needed us.
CHAPTER FIVE – JOINING THE COMMUNITY
We focused quickly on getting connected to the neighborhood, giving to local food banks and talking to our customers about the foods they want and need (a great aspect of the Save A Lot program is allowing individual retailers to customize their product selections). We run a fun Instagram account for people to get to know us as real people – Craig does mean Elvis and Bob Ross impersonations, and isn’t afraid of the spotlight. We’ve created a relationship with the community, which really makes us more of a “mom-and-pop” grocery. They know our kids, and we know theirs. And we know the impact that providing high-quality and low cost food can mean in our customers’ lives.
CHAPTER SIX – AN ONGOING EVERYDAY STORY
Through it all, we’ve balanced our work and family life well. The key is to over-communicate; we talk about everything. That’s the best way to run a partnership, whether it’s launching a business or raising a family. We know we have each other’s backs, we share our feelings and information about our obstacles, and can lean on each other in times of struggle.
We’ve got a lot going on, even more so now as we’ve taken over management of our father’s store not too far from our own. That’s all we can manage for now, but know we can handle anything that comes our way. We’re married to our work AND to each other, and thanks to Save A Lot and a ton of effort, we couldn’t be happier the way our story has unfolded.
Jenny Kute and her husband, Craig Oeswein, operate two Save A Lot locations in Louisville, Kentucky.