by Bob Schutte, SMA Member, Schutte Stair Company
“You’ve got to buy this place, it’s time for me to retire.” Those were the words spoken to me over 40 years ago by my friend Clarence Reeve and that is what started my adventure into the stair business. I didn’t buy Clarence’s business but he did light the fire that led to a lifelong passion of designing and building some of the finest stairs in Cincinnati.
When I started Schutte Stair Company I knew nothing of designing and building stairs so I scoured the libraries for stair building information and found nothing. There was no Google, YouTube or internet at the time, I was on my own. I looked everywhere to find like-minded people in the business and that’s when I came across the Stairway Manufactures Association. In 1992 there was an SMA meeting in Columbus, Ohio that I attended and thus began my association with and membership in what I think has been the best education I could have had in the industry.
Those early years of the SMA were endless meetings about the building code; meetings I thought were so boring but in hindsight were so important to the industry. Attending code hearings and doing handrail testing was the glue that held the SMA together. We were not only colleagues but we became friends.
Involvement with the committees and being on the Board of Directors helped me understand the commitment everyone made to better the association. We were eventually able to turn the focus from codes to education where we shared common knowledge, not only stair knowledge but also business knowledge. These were the tools I was looking for as I sought out information in my early years in the stair business, tools I needed to run my company.
My involvement in the SMA led to an amazing transformation from knowing the others in the association as “members” to realizing they became my “friends.” The years have led to shop visits, social gatherings, zoom calls, and camping trips. Now we talk about families and grandkids as well as new stair designs, handrail height, and headroom clearance.
Life is full of change, and so it is for the SMA. It no longer is the Stairway Manufactures Association, it’s the Stairbuilders and Manufactures Association. The association is an all-encompassing organization of stairbuilders, manufacturers, suppliers and support companies that will continue promoting beautifully designed, safe stairways while also continuing to build close friendships and lasting bonds.
I look back over the last thirty years as a stair builder and realize I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my “friends” in the SMA and I thank you for all you’ve done for me, my family, and my business. Without you this adventure wouldn’t have been possible.
As my friend Clarence said, “it’s time for me to retire”. That being said, I’m announcing the closing of Schutte Stair Company effective August 2, 2022, 32 years from the date we started. There are grandkids that need to be played with, fish that need to be caught, traveling with my wife in our RV and not only seeing the country but also seeing the world.
Thank you everyone for all you gave.