We had the good fortune of connecting with Debbie Sam and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Debbie, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
My parents and their experiences had everything to do with how I evolved into the person I am today.
My father was a Chinese immigrant who migrated to the states at the age of 17 with $2.00 in his pocket in pursuit of a better life, than the one he had left behind. My great Uncle Floyd had encouraged him to get an education, yet with the language barrier and the heavy responsibility of providing for his family back home in China it was almost too much to ask of a young man in a strange land. My fathers story is that he was the eldest of eight children and his responsibility as a youth was to sell vegetables on street with his mother. He utilized that knowledge to deliver vegetables to restaurants in the streets of Fresno. That’s how he met my mom.
My mother was a Japanese American who spent several years of her childhood in an internment camp. Upon her family’s release they were separated and my mother stayed with her grandfather traveling from farm to farm in search of work. This too is my mother’s story which was minimally talked about growing up. My mother and grandfather settled in Fresno where she was able to complete her education. She worked at a local restaurant well working on her cosmetology degree and that’s where my parents met.
In 1955 they were married and my father pursued his dream to become a butcher, which was a very highly regarded profession back in the 50’s and my mother supported his dream. I was born a butcher’s daughter and for as long as I can recall my parents always stressed the importance of family and work ethic. My father was a wise and driven individual and my mother was the loving silent strength that seemed to balance everything out. In my upbringing there was never the talk of failure or impossibility.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Sam’s is a small family owned and operated butcher shop in Aurora which started in 1982 inspired by my brother “Ken Sam” with the desire to follow in our father’s footsteps. Sam’s is actually my families second location. Our first one started in Denver in 1974 with both my parents and all of my siblings working, struggling and growing together.
It’s strange to imagine that it was a beef shortage in 1973, which brought my father to Colorado to purchase beef.
That’s when he was offered the opportunity to open his own business and he packed his family up and gifted us with our future in Colorado.
I have two (Pamela & Parker) of my three children that work by my side, as well as my future son in law Matt. Michelle has a Masters in Bio-Chemistry and pursuing her own dream outside of the business. However, they all partook in the business at some point in their lives.
My job is to source the highest quality products, provide the greatest customer service and a knowledgeable team to preserve the family tradition that I was gifted to carry on. I have the most amazing job!
I can no longer recall if it was easy, however it was perfect. I consider myself fortunate for having the most loyal, kind and generous clientele any business could imagine. I’m continuously in awe.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve been living in the Covid protocol for the past year, it’s been very challenging to use my imagination at this time.
A drive up to the mountains are a must whether to take in the scenery or stop for a hike. If it weren’t for the pandemic I would bring them the first Friday art walk on Santa Fe where local artists show off their talent and the local food trucks gather. I love Colorado Springs, Downtown Denver, Blackhawk and Boulder all close enough to get taste of their character and beauty. We would definitely share great meals and stories in the comforts of my home, which would be an adventure in itself.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I dedicate my success to all of those that have loved and supported me. My sister (Sam) who helped me to laugh through challenges.
In 2018 I was gifted with an opportunity to expand into a larger location and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had never had the experience previously and it was a little terrifying. I had a thriving business which required more space, however I didn’t know how to get from point A to point B. There’s so much that goes into re-locating a business or opening a business, which is far beyond my understanding.
In order, I thank my sister for being an avid fan of Restaurant Impossible and designer Lynn Kegan. Furthermore, recommending that I reach out to Lynn and Lynn for agreeing to take the job of designing my space and going over and above his job and our agreement. He truly created a masterpiece and for that I’m thankful.
Also my brother (Ken) for having the vision to open a second location in Aurora almost forty years ago and also utilizing his law experience to negotiate my lease and encouraging me to expand.
My kids (Pamela, Michelle and Parker) for their understanding, patience and support as I stumbled balancing work and family.
Most of all my customers and staff that make me look so good. With all my heart, I believe that those that support a business is what makes a business and I am truly blessed.
The journey is never traveled alone and I have the most loving companions on my journey.
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