Bio: Barth, Bob -
Celebrates Retirement (Oct 2019)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Barth, Quicker, Grap, Ehlen, Skroch, Mabie, Hediger, Berger, Marciniak
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/23/2019
Barth Celebrates Retirement After Career Spanning Almost Five decades
By Valorie Brecht
Anyone who spends 50 years in one field of work can be said to have a high degree of commitment. Bob Barth certainly has that, but he also has the satisfaction of having had a fulfilling career.
“It’s a wonderful profession – you’re working with people all the time. You’re working with all different kinds of people with different needs,” said Barth.
Barth is well-known in the Neillsville community as the longtime co-owner of Sav-Rite Building Center, a hardware store and lumber supplier. Barth retired July 1. As of this month, he would have been in the lumber and building materials business for 50 years.
However, that isn’t what he always anticipated he would do.
“Growing up, while I was in high school, I thought I might like to be a veterinarian because I was born and raised on a dairy farm,” said Barth, who grew up on a farm near Granton along with his three brothers and two sisters.
“It is hard for a young person to determine what they want to do for their life,” he added.
Barth graduated from Granton High School in 1964. After graduating, he joined the Navy and worked as a jet mechanic from 1964 to 1968.
After that, he went to work for a contractor in the Auburndale area and built barns and pole sheds. He also attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for two semesters on the GI Bill.
After school, Barth wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. However, he found out about a local job opening.
“I had met my wife and her dad happened to be the manager of Fullerton Lumber in Neillsville here and Fullerton Lumber at the time was looking for manager trainees. So, I started there in October 1969 as a manager trainee and in February 1971, my father-in-law had cancer and passed away. So, at that particular time, Fullerton Lumber felt I had enough training and they offered the managership of the lumberyard and Redi-Mix [concrete] plant in Neillsville.”
Fullerton Lumber supplied and furnished material for carpenters in the area. During the time as manager, Barth performed estimates, did bookkeeping, drafted house designs, waited on customers and did problem-solving with people in the building industry, among other things.
In 1978, Barth was presented with an opportunity. Mel’s Building Center ceased operation at that time and became available. Barth, Don Quicker and Louie Grap bought the property and started their own business, Sav-Rite Building Center. The three knew each other already; Quicker and Barth are second cousins and Grap was a bookkeeper for the Quicker accounting firm.
“And I played softball with Louie a lot and Louie knew me, so when this particular business opportunity came available, they asked if I was interested in buying into a lumberyard and managing it and I said I was,” Barth said.
Their first day of business was Jan. 16, 1978.
Grap passed away suddenly in August 1980, but Barth and Quicker continued on as business partners. In 1992, Sav-Rite joined Ace Hardware and started carrying those products.
About five years ago, Barth and Quicker brought in two new partners: Nate Ehlen and Barth’s son, Brian. They had a buy-sell agreement which they exercised this past July. Quicker and Ehlen bought out Barth and his son. Barth retired at that time.
It’s been a full career, said Barth.
“I’ve done everything up over the years – loading trucks, unloading trucks, making deliveries, doing estimates, fixing windows, fixing doors – there’s nothing I haven’t done,” he said.
Barth said a typical day would include making estimates, waiting on customers that come into the store and perhaps making house calls or building calls for troubleshooting.
Another big part of his job was managing and delegating tasks to employees, since one person can’t do it all. Sav-Rite started out with just two employees but ended up with 10 at one point in time. Currently, the business has about nine part-time and full-time employees, including a couple of high school students. Sav-Rite has regularly employed high school students and Barth has often served as a mentor for them. He said it’s been rewarding to watch many of them go on to join the building materials industry.
Barth said the industry has changed a lot since he first started, with the biggest change being the advent of computes and software, which has made bookkeeping a lot easier and faster. He said the materials themselves have changed, too. There are more composite and longer-lasting materials on the market.
“There’s a lot of engineered wood available no. You just don’t use a plain two-by-four anymore. They’re still used, but there’s so many alternate types of materials that can be used now,” he said.
Sav-Rite has also expanded as a business to offer more services in recent years, such as drafting services for people that want to design and build homes.
Throughout the years, Barth has also gotten to know a lot of people in the community – in some cases, even four generations from the same family.
“My favorite part of the job is working with people – working with people from all walks of life and seeing some positive outcomes from their building material needs. My days would always go by so fast,” he said.
Barth was grateful to all those that have helped him throughout his career. He extended appreciation to Bob Skroch, Steve Mabie and Randy Hediger specifically, who all worked for Sav-Rite for over 20 years; and also to Dale Berger, who worked with him for over 10 years.
“We have all our current staff – We have Nate Ehlen, Adam Marciniak – all those guys are great. We’ve had a lot of employees over the years and still have. The business is in very capable hands,” he said.
Now it is time to retire. It’s time for my wife and I to enjoy some of the finer fruits of life.”
Barth has been actively involved in the community throughout his life. He served on the Memorial Medical Center (MMC) Board of Directors for 36 years. He served as president at two different times for a total of 15 years. He also was a part of the MMC Foundation. He is a past president of the Neillsville Chamber of Commerce.
Bath served as president of the Wisconsin Retail Lumber Association. He was also on the board of directors for the Northwestern Lumber Association.
Barth serves on The Highground Board of Directors and the House of Mercy Board of Directors.
Barth and his wife Kathy, live in Neillsville and have six children: Douglas, David, Brian, Regan, Julie and Chelsea. Douglas has passed away.
A retirement part is planned for Barth this Friday, Oct 25, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Sav-Rite Building Center.
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