SAUNDERS TRIBUTE: Business leaders get in line to laud Saunders

Stories aplenty of veteran auto dealer putting people together

Westshore Chamber of Commerce president Doug Kobayashi

Westshore Chamber of Commerce president Doug Kobayashi

After listing off a multitude of Bob Saunders’ accomplishments, Doug Kobayashi was quick to praise him for getting the West Shore Chamber of Commerce back on solid ground.

“He’s been a phenomenal resource for turning the Chamber around, a true philanthropist and someone I aspire to be like,” said Kobayashi, who has served as Chamber president the past four years and has known Saunders for five. “If I needed to know who to connect with, Bob was the one who made it happen.”

His respect for Saunders is the reason Kobayashi took on the presidency of the Westshore Rebels football club before this season.

“I had more than enough on my plate,” said Kobayashi, who owns BiteZ Sandwich Bar in Colwood and is chair of the advisory council for the business school at Royal Roads University,  “I only did it because Bob asked me. He’s been my best friend and I would do anything for Bob. He comes in for coffee three times a week and we try to solve the world’s problems.”

Kobayashi credited the success of Saunders Subaru to Bob’s strong business sense and especially, the way he deals with people, but points out that’s only part of the reason Saunders and his family business have earned numerous awards and accolades from his peers.

Another strength is that Saunders understands the importance of community involvement and takes it to the extreme, Kobayashi stressed. “There are things he does that stick in your mind,” he said.

“I distinctly remember a woman dropping her car off for service who thanked Bob for looking after everything during a tragic period for her family. She said Bob helped them get back on their feet and she will never forget him. You hear so many off the cuff remarks about the Saunders family; their reputation speaks for itself.”

He recalled a difficult period in 2014 when Saunders was was very sick at Christmas time.

“Even the people at the hospital who were taking care of him were talking about how sincere, caring and grateful he was to them,” Kobayashi recalled. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he sold half of them cars before he left,” he added with a chuckle.

John Wilson credits Bob Saunders for teaching him the importance of giving back and connecting with the community. Wilson said he learned early on the benefits of following Saunders’ lead when he began to grow his own company, Wilson Transportation, which handles travel for the Victoria Grizzlies hockey team and Westshore Rebels football.

“I followed Bob’s lead on how to grow a company and how to give back,” he said. “He taught me and my company the importance of bringing local business and community back into supporting the team when I took over the Grizzlies,” said Wilson, a majority owner and team president for the past five years.

He said he’s always admired Saunders and his son Dave’s ability to bring people together and make decisions. “They are a huge part of Colwood, one of the last remaining family companies, and always have a finger on the pulse of the community.”

He lauded their support for the Grizzlies, Rebels and, in the past, the Victoria Shamrocks, and credited them with bringing community support for teams back into the mainstream.

“Bob’s very vocal and works hard to ensure there’s business support as well,” Wilson added. Of the sale of the dealership, he said, “It’s a sad day, but I’m very happy for him and his family. It must have been a difficult and emotional decision, but I’m sure it’s best for the family.”

He looks forward to working with the Saunders family on projects in the future. “I’m sure they will remain strong supporters of the Grizzlies and will continue to be involved in the community in many ways.”

Langford Mayor Stew Young said it will be impossible to replace the work Bob Saunders and his family have done.

“I think Bob and the family have been a major contributor to Colwood’s success and a tireless champion for charitable endeavours,” he said.

“He always put his family and the community first, and they have been enthusiastic supporters for recreation and positive projects that have made significant improvements in Colwood and the West Shore. He’s a good family man who instilled strong values in his kids, a great advocate for business and a leading force for positive change.”

Young hopes retirement will enable Saunders to spend more time and be more involved in supporting charities and positive initiatives that improve the quality of life for people in the community.

“Otherwise there will be a big hole that’s impossible to fill,” he added.

Ken Taylor says that in all his years in business, he’s only come across two or three families that he can compare to the Saunders.

“The whole family is top shelf on all fronts,” said Taylor, owner-operator of several McDonalds franchises on the West Shore.

“They are absolutely brilliant business people. I couldn’t have more respect for any other family. Bob is one of the smartest business people I have ever met,” Taylor continued.

“There are very few people out there who have that kind of solid business background like Bob. It’s extremely rare to meet anyone like him.”

The family’s commitment to charitable causes has impressed as well. “There are numerous examples of how they always put the community first. Their generosity doesn’t stop,” Taylor noted. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to be associated with that family.”

He’s looking forward to seeing what the group will do now that they have sold the business. “I can’t wait to see what they get up to next,” he said. “Stay tuned, because it’s going to be fun.”

Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton can’t recall a time when her kids were growing up that they weren’t wearing a Saunders Subaru team jersey for one sport or another.

“One of the games we played during trips in the car was to count the Subarus compared to Fords,” she said. “The number of cars you see with the Saunders Subaru logo is a testament to their business acumen. They have been a focus and a hinge for what happens in this community for many years.”

Hamilton said she has heard numerous stories about the family’s generosity and commitment to charitable causes.

“Kudos to them for that,” she said. “It sounds like they have done their homework to ensure the Pattison Group will continue the great work they have done in the community.”