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A Pencil, A Ruler, A Suitcase Full of Dreams
This story does not start in 1964. Rather it starts with a thirteen year old boy crafting wine barrels and farm wagons. The history of entrepreneurship is replete with outstanding examples of the simple and seemingly impossible origins of creative efforts. Walt Disney forged the beginnings of his beloved Mickey Mouse after watching and having to live with a myriad of small rodents in a dilapidated room that he was renting under a church. It is from similar humble and ostensibly impossible origins that Mr. Sartor began what is now a respected and community supported business.
At the age of 17, most youngsters today would trade in a pencil and ruler for a ball or a bat; instead, Mr. Sartor held them up with the fervour of a cleric and declared that "with these two tools, I am going to make it!"
The world of Gino, like the world of Disney, was not built in a day; goals were set and, once achieved, new goals were set. In life "there really is no finish line"; to Mr. Sartor, the joy has always been in the process of building. Like many of his countrymen, he arrived in this country with neither money nor the language; instead, he carried with him a more valuable commodity - a suitcase full of dreams and the commitment to realize them.
The wages were meager in the beginning ($0.85 hr); however, with an unrelenting drive, he persisted through contract work in Toronto, Elliot Lake and Sault Ste. Marie. He began to build custom homes, though he lacked the credit necessary to receive mortgage approval. This did not deter him; rather it sharpened his penchant for cost efficiencies. Judge Greco, a budding young lawyer at the time, suggested a name for the new company that Gino intended to incorporate. And so was born Sar-Gin Developments (Sault) Ltd.
Quality is King
The quality of the homes he built for others was on par with the quality of homes he built for himself; in fact, it was a regular occurrence that people knocked on his door and made an offer on the very home in which he lived. By 1968, Gino and his family moved a total of thirteen times. He continued to construct a number of small multi-unit buildings; however, in 1969, he took on his largest project at the time. At the age of 32, he risked his life savings and constructed, from the ground up, a 25-unit high rise on Kohler Street. The length of his days was not measured in time, but rather by empty boxes of nails. This was an economically dark time in the Soo, with an Algoma Steel strike and an unusually high vacancy rate. As he so often had done before, this did not deter him. Together with his supportive wife, he persisted and managed to ride out the storm. This proved to be a critical success, for it laid the groundwork for the construction of a second adjacent high-rise. As an homage to his wife Maria, with whom he shares all of his success, he named the second building Gin-Mar Manor. This was followed by the acquisition of two other high-rise buildings on Kohler Street.
Expansion into Commercial and Industrial
From residential development, Gino expanded into commercial and industrial development. These included the construction of Bay Front Quality Inn, 747 Queen Street (the new home of BDO Dunwoody and the Innovation Centre), the old Sears Warehouse, as well as the acquisition of several other office buildings and industrial complexes. In addition, he has recently purchased an attractive parcel of land on Great Northern Road that is being considered for major development. Together with a group of partners, he is the co-owner of the Quality Inn and the former Boston's building on Queen Street, the latter of which is being considered as the future site of a new hotel/inn.
Not the Final Chapter
While his acquisitions have been many, he has personally built over 1000 residential units in the cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins, Blind River and Wawa. In 1998, his achievements were recognized by the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce as Entrepreneur of the Year, an award which honors the achievements of successful business people and the contributions they make to the growth and improvement of our community. Even in semi-retirement, one does not get the sense that he sees a "finish line." While his daughter and son, (together with a terrific staff), manage the day-to-day operations, Gino still maintains an active role at arms-length. Gino has always been more interested in building communities, rather than sterile structures in which to live. He has risked his livelihood in order to do so and the course of his life is a testament that anything is possible with a suitcase full of dreams and a commitment in realizing them.
The Future is Bright
Each one of us would be well-advised to capture that thirteen year old boy within us, with a future of hope and an unrelenting spirit to realize our dreams.