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THE SALTZMAN MEN: From left front: David, Burton “Burt”, Aaron, Dan and Steven Saltzman

Family dynasties are not just tales of English monarchies or feudal Japan.

Cleveland also has a family dynasty, now on its fifth generation. A name that many locals recognize as the brains and brawn behind Dave’s Supermarkets, Inc. and local Lucky’s Market stores: the Saltzmans. Currently, the family business includes leadership from patriarch Burt Saltzman, the son of Dave Saltzman, the supermarket business’ namesake; his sons, Steven and Dan Saltzman; and Dan’s sons, David and Aaron Saltzman.

While feeding families from 13 Dave’s locations and three locations of Lucky’s Market may seem like a daunting task, the Saltzman family takes it in stride, priding themselves in the service they bring to communities that may otherwise not have access to healthy and affordable groceries. And as a family and company, the Saltzmans also give time to the community, supporting local organizations like the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, Bellefaire JCB and Menorah Park. Individually, each family member has their own community endeavors and philanthropic passions.

“It was truly humbling to see people waiting in their cars for hours to get food,” Dan Saltzman said, of a Greater Cleveland Food Bank food drive he volunteered at during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We try to be involved in organizations that touch the people we serve. Our customers were hit hard.”

And those customers, and the Greater Cleveland community in which they live, are paramount to the Saltzman family. Cultivating and feeding Cleveland is of utmost importance, Burt Saltzman said.

“Wherever we open up a supermarket, I think that is the one thing people look for in any area – a place to eat,” he said. “And we fulfill that need. It’s a good purpose to have, to make sure people are fed and have affordable, yet good, options for food on their tables.”

And for Steve Saltzman, being able to do that as a family means the world.

“Overall in the industry and across the country, there are not a lot of family-run, independent supermarkets that continue, just due to the nature of the business,” he said.

Dave’s was established in the late 1920s by Alex Saltzman, the first of the family’s five generations to be a grocer, after operating a horse-drawn produce wagon. It was then passed down to the company’s namesake Dave Saltzman - and the rest is history.

“As a family, we’ve gone into communities that needed solid supermarket options,” Steve Saltzman continued. “These are areas that were once called food deserts. And you get more satisfaction out of being in those kinds of areas because that is where options matter. Where it is make or break – going hungry or having access to good, healthy food at good prices.”

No matter where people move in the city and its neighboring suburbs, Dan Saltzman said the supermarket always keeps a finger on the pulse to ensure everyone has access to a neighborhood supermarket.

“When we built our store in MidTown, that was a recommitment to the center of Cleveland, where our company started,” he said of the new flagship store that opened in early 2019. “We took our original store on East 33rd Street and Payne Avenue and moved it to East 61st Street and Chester Avenue in the MidTown neighborhood. That was one of the biggest moves we’ve made as a company. It signified us recommitting ourselves to the people we originally served and, many times, still need us most.”

Those needs were even more clear during the COVID-19 pandemic, David Saltzman said.

“It refocused us – especially at the beginning when none of us knew what it all meant,” he said. “We were one of the only public spaces, a grocery store, that was still open. Navigating how to best keep the community and our associates safe, but also bring people food was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in the business. We were up to the challenge.”

And during the height of the pandemic, Dan Saltzman said their staff were the real difference makers.

“While we were managing the business, it was the frontline workers – the cashiers, the people that were working in the stores during the pandemic,” he said. “They still came to work every day. They’re the ones that deserve a lot of credit. They stepped up since a good, affordable option was something a lot of people needed out of their grocer. They helped us address that need in a way that mattered.”

Aaron Saltzman added, “We are incredibly proud of the amazing people who work for our company, many have been in jobs for 20 or 30 years. I cannot emphasize enough how much that means to us. Our team is an extension of our own family. I believe that’s part of what makes Dave’s special.”

As for the future of the Saltzman family dynasty, Burt Saltzman simply said he is blessed. With grandchildren, great-grandchildren and strong wives behind them, it’s that support system that makes the work they do possible.

“I feel very fortunate to live to see what I’ve seen,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the future looks very bright as our family grows. I am so blessed. I’m 84 years old, and I’m looking forward to the future.”

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