Rick Michaud is the president of Sam’s Italian Sandwich Shoppe and whether you’ve known him for years, or are just meeting him for the first time, one thing is certain: Italians and pizzas are a big part of his life.
“One of my fondest memories involves pizza,” he said. “On Friday nights, my mom would treat us with Sam’s pizza. I was the youngest of four boys, so everyone got their own pizza except me. I shared one with my mother; it was always ham and green pepper — it’s still one of my favorites today.”
The presence of pizza in Michaud’s life emerged again at the age of 14, when he got his first job delivering pizza for Georgio’s in Auburn.
“I had just received my license. The pay was $2.51 an hour. It was a lot of fun and Georgio’s is where I met my wife Wendy. She was scooping ice cream and making pizzas and sandwiches,” he said.
In 1988, Michaud came to Sam’s as a shift leader in training at the Lisbon Street location in Lewiston.
“Initially I called Ed Croteau, Sam’s general manager at the time, and told him I was looking for a job. He said ‘I don’t just have a job for you — I want you to have a career with Sam’s.’ I told him I wasn’t sure about a career, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Little did Michaud know that in 15 years he would be sole shareholder and president of Sam’s Italian Sandwich Shoppes.
“I’ll never forget my first day!” he laughed. “Connie (Fortin) L’Italien, (now the manager in Brunswick) was the assistant manager at the time. She looked at me and said, ‘Come over here honey and I’ll show you how to do it!’ It was a good day.”
Within four months, Michaud was promoted to assistant manager and within 18 months assigned to the Lisbon Street location as manager. His wife, Wendy, joined the Sam’s team as well, working at the Center Street location for a year, followed by 10 years at the Minot Avenue location.
By 1997 Michaud became field manager, shooting up to general manager within a couple of years, taking advantage of every opportunity Sam’s had to offer.
Over the years, he learned so much from the man that offered him a “career.”
“Mr. Croteau’s philosophy was to give it your best; take it to its highest level, and be the best candidate you can be for the next challenge. His frame of mind was that no matter what, those experiences can be taken anywhere. I was fortunate to be able to apply those lessons here at Sam’s. I was also privileged to work with and be mentored by Jerry Clements and Phil Libby; it was a great opportunity. They were truly one of the most successful partnerships our community has seen.”
As general manager, Michaud didn’t just change his hat, he wore many at the same time. He was in charge of keeping the “ship” right, continuing with a modest and steady growth, yet sticking to the core beliefs, maintaining quality, and most of all, recognizing that the success of the business is directly attributable to the support and loyalty of the customers.
What does Michaud see in Sam’s future?
“Maybe getting a chance to teach our grandchildren one day how to run the business, but most of all continue with the core values bestowed to me. We have a few changes in mind with upgrades/renovation at our existing facilities, but one thing will never change, and that’s our motto: Courtesy, Quality & Service.”
Michaud and his wife live in Lewiston. They have three grown children who all worked for the company from the age of 14 through college. Tyler and wife Desiree, who have two children, live and work locally. Brittane, who also lives locally, continues to work at Sam’s, wearing many hats, while her husband Adam is deployed overseas in the U.S. Air Force. Logan has lived and worked in Boston since her college graduation.
So what is his “recipe” for success?
“Most importantly, we have the greatest customers. We understand that our customers judge us anew every time they come in. We will never take that for granted,” said Michaud.
“Sticking to our roots planted by Sam Bennett, it’s all about quality of product, a high level of service, and a commitment to the customers and communities that we live and work in.
“Also we appreciate the team of people we work with. We have been very fortunate to have such talented, dedicated and loyal staff. In addition, we have surrounded ourselves with a vendor community that is the best at what they do. They provide us with quality products and professional services that help us excel in the marketplace.”