Working tirelessly as Vice President of Operations for Saker ShopRites and Dearborn Market, Rick represents the fifth generation of leadership in his family’s grocery business that was founded in 1916 in Freehold.
I had the opportunity to learn who Rick Saker is and the traits he possesses that make him a successful businessman, an avid competitor, and important part of our local community.
I was first introduced to Rick within the glass walls of a greenhouse belonging to Dearborn Market, with the living and breathing farm and market in the background. Rick reached out his hand to shake mine, his introduction showed strength, as well as humility. It is readily apparent this is a man who is strong in his trade but realizes it is not about him. As he led me through the upscale Holmdel farmers market, I watched as he said hello to associates, held the door open for others and greeted his customers by name. Once getting to speak with him, I found that he gave credit to others before himself and spoke highly of his family, friends and associates. He shared with me how his family has always taught a culture of giving back and of social responsibility – and it’s clear from his actions that he is keeping those traditions alive.
Rick’s roots run deep in Monmouth County. He grew up in Colts Neck and graduated from Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, then graduated from St. Joseph’s University with a Masters in Food Marketing in 2005. His entire immediate family all reside within the surrounding Fair Haven area, where Rick now calls home. “I consider myself blessed to have so many of my loved ones, both family and friends, living either in Fair Haven or within just a stone’s throw.”
The Saker family is intertwined with many local organizations. The family’s legacy is strong in making a difference in all aspects of the community, giving back where they can, making their employees happy, knowing and studying the food industry and making sure they and their businesses are assets to the towns in which they live. In a time where the word “local,” is used as a marketing tool by retailers and manufacturers, Rick shared with me how along with his family, the nearly 10,000 Saker ShopRite associates are all Central New Jersey residents. “There is nothing more local than that. I am very proud of the fact that all of the revenue generated in the communities that we serve is reinvested directly back into these same communities. We are deeply ingrained in each local community’s fabric and economy.”
The Saker family also supports over 2,000 local affiliations and Rick mentioned a few that are close to his heart. Joan Dancy & PALS is an organization that provides support for those suffering from ALS and their families. It is a cause they take very seriously. The family is also quite passionate about the Vision of Children Foundation, which is devoted to combat childhood blindness, and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchens in Red Bank and Toms River. They are also strong supporters of the Food Banks of Monmouth, Ocean and Hunterdon Counties, and Meridian Health including the Riverview Medical Center.
Following in the footsteps of the Saker Family reputation, Rick is passionate about all things he takes part in, his first passion being the food industry. Rick has taken his studies of food as far as South East Asia, and has earned a Master’s Degree in International Food Marketing from The Food Marketing Institute at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Most recently Rick has been elected to the Board of Directors at his college alma mater. This is a position his grandfather held for over thirty years and most recently his father held for over twenty.
He continues to educate himself and is very hands-on in all aspects of his business. Rick recently visited California to tour the agricultural growing regions to meet the farmers and tour the fields they source from. He often tours farms and manufacturing facilities. Rick explained that it is extremely important for him to understand the conditions from which the product originates. “We have made a direct promise to our customers, to offer our customers the best possible quality at the best possible price. I intend to keep that promise.”
Rick’s full on attitude overflows into his personal life and hobbies. Three years ago, Rick took on a new challenge in Triathlons, or as he states it – he “caught the bug”. He was recruited by a friend to participate in the Sleepy Hollow Sprint Triathlon. Since then he has been training with his coach, Brian Shea of Personal Best Nutrition, and participating in at least five triathlons or swim events each year since. This year, he chose to focus on just one event, training for eight months before competing in the 2016 Ironman in Lake Placid, where he completed the consecutive 2.5-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and full marathon run of 26.2 miles this past July.
Always up for a challenge, he also has embraced sailing. This summer he took part in the American Yacht Club’s fall season Regatta in an intense eight-man crew competition.
When asked what he attributes his competitive nature to, he is quick to recall his youth. “I grew up in Colts Neck, in the same house that my mother continues to live in today. To be honest, this is still the house that I refer to when thinking of home.” Rick was athletic growing up and looks back on long days of disciplined practice alongside his grandfather and mother as his competitive foundation. “I was taught to excel through daily discipline and hard work. In the summers, I would wake up early and help my grandfather work on his farm. When our work was done, we would practice several athletics until the sunset and often after. My grandfather, who now lives in Holmdel and is 96 years old, was a WWII bomber pilot and retired from the US Air Force as Colonel after thirty years of service.” Rick also points to the close bond that he has with his father as his inspiration and for his love of competition. “From the time I could walk I have been in the markets with my father. This year I am celebrating 18 years officially on the company’s records. Being only 34, this is an achievement I am very proud of. In reality, employment within the Saker family starts at birth. I worked part time through high school and college.”
When I asked him about his future, he told me he is looking forward to gaining a better understanding of the farming operations at Dearborn and experimenting with different farming techniques. Currently he is involved in the online retailing platform of ShopRite, and is excited about becoming a leader in online shopping. Rick knows the more the family business grows, the more the community grows. He concludes, “It’s a fun and exciting thing, the ability to touch lives in so many ways, while working side by side with your family.”
Story: Shanna Polignone
Photo: Melissa Amorelli Photography