How you doin’?
A lot of people may ask you that, but how many really mean it and listen to your answer? If you watch Samuel Grant walk around the deli floor of one of his Salt Lake restaurants, you hear him ask the question. And you know Sam’s listening to your answer. It’s a trip Sam makes nearly every workday at lunch time. And over 30 years it’s still a trip he loves – as do the patrons, who are not just Sam’s clients, but his friends.
“I love my customers,” says Sam, who in the early 1990s took over control of Frank Granato Importing Co. after his father, and the business’s name sake, passed away. “Whether I’m busing tables or talking to people about politics and government, I just enjoy people.”
Now Sam, his family and friends, are beginning a new trip, moving from community and business service to entering elective politics – a run for the United States Senate from Utah. Sam invites you to join him on the ride, believing it will be both rewarding and fun. Sam and the Granato family know something about starting new excursions, in life, in business and now in politics.
Sam’s father, Frank, was the first of his generation born in the United States. Sam’s grandparents came to Utah from Italy to herd goats in Draper, Tooele and the Bountiful foothills. Frank started the Frank Granato Importing Co. in 1948, a modest effort begun with pushcarts. Sam learned early that work and family went together. “I loved my father, loved to be around him. And since he was working, I worked alongside him.” Sam’s uncle ran a produce company, and from his Millcreek neighborhood, as a boy Sam would load up a wheel-barrow with melons and other vegetables, walking from house to house selling the leftover greens – giving some away if neighbors couldn’t afford to buy them.
Living near Engh Gardens, Sam made 3 cents per wooden flat he’d hammer together for the floral center. “I spent the money on the movies,” recalls Sam, who now at 60 grew up in the 1950s when all things seemed possible. Surrounded by family – you can see the black-and-white photos of Granato heritage hanging in the original 1300 S. 3rd West deli today and in the “Family Room” at the 1600 South Redwood Road restaurant – Sam learned that you have to make your community a better place. “For years Dad paid the office rent for one well-known non-profit so it could have a home. But we were also taught that you don’t wear that on your sleeve.”
Hard work came with joy, too. And anyone who knows Sam knows he likes to have a good time and to make sure that those around him do, too. American GIs came back from World War II with a taste for European and Italian food, and Granato’s import business grew along with the demand. “When I was just 16, after school every Wednesday I’d load up my old Volkswagen van with product and drive up to Park City, delivering foods to local restaurants and getting to know the new ski resort town.” “Dad was Italian Catholic. Mom was Scotch-Irish Mormon,” says Sam, who today is a member of the LDS Church, a non-drinker who is chairman of the state’s liquor control board. The mix in the Granato family made for a diverse and wonderful upbringing. In fact, the land upon which the Bountiful LDS Temple is built was at one time home to the Granatos’ goats, who roamed the high foothills.
After graduating from Olympus High School, Sam decided to attend Southern Utah University. “I went to SUU to learn business and have fun. Dad said I would be working hard all the rest of my life in the family business. He told me to enjoy myself.”
Marriage to the former Ann Wyss and four children followed as Sam and Frank worked hand in hand to grow Granato’s. When Frank Granato – who was also well-known in the community, serving in a number of civic capacities – passed away in 1991, Sam became company president. Today Sam’s son Frank works in the business with him.
To know Sam is not only to like him, but to be inspired – and maybe teased a bit – by him, as well. More than a few friends, customers and employees have felt the good-nature zinger a time or two. Sam counts as his friends a number of Republican businessmen and officeholders. Former GOP Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. regularly lunched in a backroom of Granato’s 3rd West store. “The governor called it his War Room.” And it was there the strategy of modernizing Utah’s liquor law was hatched several years ago – a change that many believed could not be accomplished. “You can achieve good works, if you will just cooperate,” says Sam, pointing to the liquor law reform.
The bitter partisan atmosphere of Washington, D.C. must be changed, and Sam believes he can aid in that effort. “I have been blessed with wonderful friends – many of whom come to my stores because it feels like home to them,” says Sam. Former Jazz coach Frank Layden and Mac Christensen, owner of Mr. Mac’s clothing stores, are his campaign co-chairmen – reflecting the non-partisan support of which Sam is proud.
President John Kennedy, a Democrat Utahns gave their votes to in 1960 when Sam was 10 years old, paraphrased previous generations when he said to those which much is given, much is expected.
Sam and the Granato family have achieved much, grasping the ever-hopeful opportunities found in America. From grandparents who immigrated to the United States with the promise that hard work would bring a better future for their children and grandchildren, Sam is now ready and prepared to bring moderate, problem-solving ideas and solutions to the United States Senate.
This summer and fall, Sam is not just taking a trip around Utah asking “How you doin’?” He’s listening and learning. And he wants you along for the ride.