Known for both his business acumen and his philanthropic efforts, Mr. Saunders’ ventures are far-reaching and diverse. He was instrumental in reshaping the truck stop industry, taking it from poorly stocked, overgrown gas stations to modern travel plazas with stores, restaurants, and lodging facilities. Mr. Saunders began in 1958 with his father’s gas station, and built it into the Truckstops of America chain, later founding Travel Ports of America, Inc. which merged with Ryder’s TravelCenters of America in 1999. Today, TravelCenters is the nation’s largest chain of truck stops.
Mr. Saunders also ventured into liquid-fuels distribution and convenience stores. In 1979, he purchased W.W. Griffith Oil Corp. and opened the first of a chain of Sugar Creek Corporation retail gas and convenience stores. In 1998, Mr. Saunders sold Griffith Oil Inc to Rochester Gas and Electric Corp.’s Energetix subsidiary. Two years later, he sold the 105-store Sugar Creek chain to Tops Friendly Markets, LLC.
Mr. Saunders has successfully diversified his interests to auto and truck rental, recreation and tourism, packaged foods, property management, and banking. His previous business history includes being Owner of Econocar International, Owner of Richardson Foods, Chief Executive Officer of American Rock Salt, and Sr. Vice President of Ryder Systems. Currently, Mr. Saunders is the Owner of Swain Ski Center in Swain, NY and Bristol Harbour Resort in Canandaigua, NY. He is also Owner of Essex Property Management, which maintains over 100 commercial properties. Saunders has a major interest in Western New York Energy, Youngblood and Genesee Regional Bank where he serves as Board Chairman. In 1997, Mr. Saunders and a Rochester attorney bought Lyndon Guaranty Bank of New York from ITT Corp., renaming it Genesee Regional Bank.
Mr. Saunders currently serves on the board of directors for Paul Smith’s College, American Rock Salt, Western New York Energy, Lewis Tree and the Rochester Institute of Technology. His past services have incorporated membership on the board of directors of several organizations, including Rochester General Hospital, Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Security-Norstar Ryder Systems, and the Boy Scouts of America-Steuben Area Council. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to the community, including the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award from the Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Business (now known as the E. Philip Saunders College of Business), a Doctorate of Commercial Science from Paul Smiths College, the Teddi Award from Camp Good Days and Special Times and the Livingston County Citizen of the Year.
He was elected to the Rochester Business Hall of Fame in 2004.