A philosophy for success
Ask Steve what keeps him energized and successfully managing so many business ventures, he’s quick to say that he avoids negativity. “If I waste energy being negative, it takes away from my productivity,” he replies. “We have to know about the competition, but I don’t worry about them. I stay occupied with what we can do to make our business better. We control what we can control.”
Keith Aspinwall, Saz’s General Manager, echoes that philosophy. “Saz’s catering uses the word ‘Yes’, we never say ‘No’,” says Keith, whose role includes overseeing community involvement and the creation and management of special events. “Customers appreciate that we’re easy-going and have few ‘rules’ that they have to follow.”
That same energy and never-say-no attitude is also evident in the company’s more recent ventures. Saz’s partners with Palermo’s Pizza to commercially sell their frozen grocery products, including their hand rolled Mozzarella Marinara and Leinie's Battered Wisconsin White Cheddar Cheese Curds. This fall, in addition to their White Cheddar Curds with Lienenkugel beer breading, Saz’s will be launching two new varieties of their hand rolled products—a Leinie's Pepperjack Stick and a Jalapeno Mozzarella stick, of course both items will strictly feature Wisconsin Cheese.
And, in case you thought that was more than enough for one company, this summer marks the third year Saz’s offered catering and concessions at the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis. where they served six different menus at six food locations, along with a collection of private events throughout the grounds.
“It is an exciting time in the Milwaukee [food] industry with so many restaurants opening,” Steve notes. “Which also means we’re challenged to find good strong leaders to work with us.”
The right partners can fuel success
As their catering business continued to expand, it became clear Saz’s would need more space for those operations. Steve came to Bank Mutual in 2014 seeking financing for a new catering building.
Although he had been with his previous bank for 39 years, Steve felt the need for a banking partner experienced in dealing with the Milwaukee Economic Development Commission (MEDC) as he wanted the new building to be located in Milwaukee.
Steve hired Dan Katt, Owner of Craft Development, to oversee the Saz’s Catering construction project. Dan had previously worked with Bank Mutual on real estate projects that included MEDC financing and referred Steve to Bank Mutual. Dan knew that Saz’s would benefit from a partner who was enthusiastic about helping and expanding a local business.
“I’m not a person who likes change,” Steve admits. “But Bank Mutual made it very easy for us to make this project happen and meet the opening day goals for our new catering facility.”
Steve also expressed his appreciation for Bank Mutual’s additional services during some of his busiest events, such as sending an armored truck to Bastille Days to pick up and secure a large deposit, and helping finance South Second: A Saz's Hospitality Group Property, for whom Saz’s is the exclusive caterer.
From the humble beginnings of Saz’s Wauwatosa restaurant to major sport events, fine catering and becoming an established household name, is truly a great success story. Not only for Steve Sazama, but for the thousands of Wisconsinites and people who look forward to Saz’s being a part of their family events, summer fun, and simply a staple of living in Wisconsin.