E. Philip Saunders
E. Philip Saunders is a serial entrepreneur, best known for his business acumen and philanthropic efforts. He was instrumental in reshaping the travel center industry – taking it from poorly stocked, overgrown gas stations to modern travel plazas with stores, restaurants, and lodging facilities. Saunders began in 1958 with his father’s gas station, and built it into the TravelCenters of America, which is now the nation’s largest chain of travel centers.
Mr. Saunders ventured into liquid-fuels distribution and convenience stores. In 1979, he purchased W.W. Griffith Oil Corp. and began the Sugar Creek Corp. chain of retail gas and convenience stores. In 1998, Saunders sold Griffith Oil Inc to Rochester Gas and Electric Corp.’s Energetix subsidiary and two years later he sold the 105-store Sugar Creek chain to Tops Markets Inc.
Mr. Saunders has successfully diversified his interests to auto rental, recreation and tourism, packaged foods, property management, and banking. He previously owned Econocar International and Richardson Foods, and served as chief executive officer of American Rock Salt and Senior Vice President of Ryder Systems. He is also owner of Essex Property Management, which maintains more than 100 commercial and hotel properties, as well as Sugar Creek Farms. Saunders’ business interests include Western New York Energy, Youngblood, Swain Ski Center in Swain, N.Y., and Bristol Harbour Resort in Canandaigua, as well as 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 Rochester Institute of Technology, where the E. Philip Saunders College of Business is named in his honor. He has been active in community service and served on the board of directors at several organizations: 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 RIT in 2005, 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 is a member of the Livonia Central School Athletic Hall of Fame and the National Association of Travel Centers Hall of Fame and was elected to the Rochester Business Hall of Fame in 2004.