Mike Sanders looks back on 58 years in grocery business
Mike Sanders can converse with anyone about any subject. He’s seen, learned and experienced a lot during his almost 72 years. He is well read, completing at least one book a week. History is his favorite reading.

He believes that exercising one’s mind is as important as exercising one’s body. That’s why, in his 60s, he attended an extension of Coventry Seminary at First Baptist Church of Weaver.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in ministry and was working on his master’s when his friend and business partner Lea Fite died.

Sanders and Fite met when Sanders was in high school and worked at Fite’s grandfather’s grocery store in Anniston.

After graduating from Anniston High School, Sanders went off to attend the University of Alabama for two years. He helped finance his education by working in grocery stores there.

“Lea and I got to talking one day and we wanted to see if the American dream was still alive,” Sanders said. “We took $1,500 and got a little credit from the Bank of Anniston and bought our first store. It was me and Lea and two other employees.”

At the time of Fite’s death, they owned Discount Foods Inc., which has six Food Outlets located in Jacksonville, Anniston, Pell City, Bynum and Alexandria. Sanders is president of Discount Foods Inc.

Sanders was born in Anniston and graduated from Anniston High in 1959. He and his wife, the former Susan Black, divide their time between their home on the Henry Neely Reservoir in Ohatchee and their home in Arab.

“We moved out here about eight years ago,” Sanders said. “I fish every morning unless the weather is bad. I’m up before 5 and try to hit the water by 6. I fish ‘til about 9, then come in, eat breakfast, shower, shave and hit a couple of stores before I get to our corporate office in Anniston.”

Sanders gives his employees a lot of credit for the success of his stores.

“We’re so very proud of each of our 175 employees,” he said. “They’re the best. Our stores help produce, directly or indirectly, jobs for about 600 people in Calhoun County. That includes vendors and warehouse workers. We add about $3 million to the county’s payroll. We’re very proud of all of that. God has really blessed us.”

Sanders says he’d like to share his motto which is “we’re local, we’re going to buy local and support our local economy.”

He hopes that motto spreads and inspires others to do the same.

Sanders is a member of First Baptist Church of Weaver. He and Susan attend Brasher’s Chapel Methodist Church in Weaver.

Their children are Tim Sanders of Arab, Stephanie Gossett and Jennifer Borders of Jacksonville, Leann Sanders of Connecticut, Whitney Jackson of Columbia, S. C., Ty Parker of Arab and Lesley Snow of Guntersville. They have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

That 14-year-old boy who started working at a grocery store in high school aspires to do more. After spending the past 58 years in grocery stores, he will begin construction on another store in Arab in the spring, with the grand opening set for the fall.

Sanders might have slowed down a little, but he’s far from giving up the only career he’s ever loved.
© 2013