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Business sale creates legacy of charity


Steve Shechter, son of a grocer and third-generation Akronite, never considered himself a philanthropist. 

That all changed in 2013 when he sold his business and established a fund at Akron Community Foundation. Now, Steve and his family can give to the causes they love and the community that has given them so much.

Business runs in the Shechter blood. In 1904, Steve's grandfather launched a fruit and vegetable business in South Akron, a bustling enclave of rubber workers. The Shechter grocery took off and became a "nationally recognized store – the first in the country to sell frozen foods," according to Steve.

Under Steve's father, the store served the West Hill carriage trade, including the foremost industry leaders of the time. As the industry started to change, Steve's father noticed that supermarkets were overtaking independent grocers. So, in the 1950s, he made the choice to sell his business to a long-time employee.

Like his father, Steve had a keen sense of opportunity. After working for a publicly traded, multinational insurance agency for a few years, Steve's friend Ron Buzek approached him about purchasing Evans Insurance Agency, a fixture in the local community since 1876. For a man to whom longevity and community meant everything, it was a perfect fit.

Over the years, Steve became managing partner and was often approached about selling. "The Evans Agency is not for sale: I've probably said that line more than anything over the last 25 years," Steve recalls. Having built his career on relationships, the propositions never felt quite right. "I wanted to leave behind the best possible opportunity for the people who had earned my loyalty."

"Our favorite holding period is forever," Warren Buffett once said. While Steve is certain no one has ever confused him with the business magnate, this is one sentiment he could easily attribute to himself. When an offer came in January 2013, Steve finally felt compelled to give selling some thought. Confident his employees would get the respect and opportunities they deserved, he sold the agency to AssuredPartners. Not only did the decision benefit Steve, it's helping the community.

Through the Cherie and Steve Shechter Charitable Giving Fund, the couple and their son, Colin, will support organizations near to their hearts both now and long after they are gone. "Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, the Knight Brothers: It's wonderful what those people do, but this (fund) makes it possible for a family like us to pass our values on to the next generation," Steve said.

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