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Family Food Store survives in Sawyer

Gale Rose
Special to the Tribune
Making up fresh sandwiches at the Family Food Store in Sawyer are (from left) Alyssa Donlinger, Ruby Wolf and Savannah Wolf. The store has seen an increase in foot traffic since restrictions were lifted because of the coronavirus.

The aroma alone is worth the visit. But the food makes to the drive to the Sawyer Family Food Store well worth the trip.

Greg Wolf, his wife Ruby, their five children and an extra helper operate this family run business that has done well in spite of the coronavirus impact.

“We feel exceedingly blessed. We’ve had no COVID sickness associated with us or our customers,” Wolf said. “We feel good that we came through it as safely as we have.”

Since opening the store eight years ago, customer response had exceeded expectations. Customers were even driving out from Sedgwick County to this destination food store even when the coronavirus hit. The building is split into two areas, a goods store and a dining room. The dining room was shut down and the store was reorganized for safer traffic flow for safe distancing and there was a lot more sanitizing. But they were resolved to stay open to provide their fresh made food and grocery items.

“We shut the dining room for five weeks, then opened it for five weeks with limited seating. Now we’re more at capacity,” Wolf said.

Their traffic count went down and there was concern about the future of the store.

“We had slower times. We thought ‘Oh no, is our business going to die,’” Wolf said.

They had a lot of customers that didn’t want to come in. Some would call ahead to find out if anyone else was in the store. So Family Food Store established curb service and it was very popular. While the traffic count went down, the average sales per customer went up. They weren’t coming as often but they were buying more when they did, Wolf said.

“Our sales held up very well,” Wolf said. “They were spending more when they did get out. We have a loyal following and they didn’t let us down. They bought a portion of their food here and we’re very, very thankful.”

With the recent changes in the number of people that can be in one place, the store has reopened and the dining room is available again. The people have returned and the place is a beehive of activity. Most customers are not wearing masks and the tight space in the store makes it difficult for distancing but that has not stopped the customers.

Making the trip to the store were Thelma Brehm of Sharon, her sister Patricia Wilson and her daughter Makena Wilson from San Diego, and Brehm’s niece Brooklynn Miller. Brehm said the people at the Family store were always nice and made people feel welcome. Their food is excellent and she insisted they come for a meal.

Patricia said she could tell they put a lot of love in their food. They are friendly and make the food quickly.

The family was concerned about the virus from the beginning. There was a lot of uncertainty, no one knew how big it was going to become. But the family didn’t live in fear. They are Old German Baptists and they relied on God and had faith in him.

“We weren’t flippant. We were concerned it might touch us or older folks,” Wolf said.

All of the children in the family are homeschooled. With the virus, they spent even more time at home and that was just fine with them.

“We had more family time than in the past and that’s been a wonderful blessing,” Wolf said.

At the beginning of the virus, the family was making masks. They kept some at the store and that felt pretty good. A couple came in and they only had one mask because that was all they could get, so the Wolfs gave them two.

“This was a good opportunity to show not just our reliance on God but also our reliance on each other. God was good to us and our customers too.” Wolf said.

The Family Food Store started as an extension of homeschooling. It was a dream to own a family business. The family likes working together and with the public.

The store is located on Main Street and business hours are Thursday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Food items include hot and cold sandwiches made to order, deli sliced meat and cheese, chips, drinks, cookies, fresh bakery items, homemade casseroles, deep dish pizza and bierocks that are one of their best sellers. Customers requested them for years but Wolf resisted because he was unfamiliar with them and didn’t eat them. But he got an order for several hundred bierocks for Oktoberfest, found out they were easy to make so he put them on the menu and they have really taken off.

“We sell so many that we can hardly keep up with demand. That’s a lesson, listen to your customers,” Wolf said.

They also have homemade jam, jelly, salsa, pickles plus home items like dish towels, lip balm, outdoor poly plastic furniture.

Greg and Ruby have five children who all help with at the store, Chloe 22, Savannah 20, Sophie 17, Elliot 11 and Havilah 6. They have an older daughter Laurel who is 23, is married and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.