Gott enjoys serving Lord as a businessman
SALEM – Wayne Gott, who owns dozens of grocery stories and banks, is a businessman who loves the Lord Jesus Christ.
He was converted as a 10-year-old boy in Douglas County, in “a little Baptist church” about 20 miles southwest of Ava. Now 75, he remains true to the King as he goes about his many commercial enterprises with his wife of 56 years, Betty, by his side.
“It just gets sweeter as the days go by,” Gott said. “Our relationship with God is just very precious to us. We’re thankful that God has allowed us to walk with Him throughout the years and has made us prosperous. He has blessed us physically and financially, and with a good family. We’re just blessed and looking forward to the future.”
The Gotts own and run 17 Country Mart supermarkets out of the Salem office. Wayne Gott and two partners in Fredricktown own 40 stores together out of the Fredericktown office, which accounts for a total of 57 stores in Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Diversified as many wise businessmen are in the 2000s, Gott became a banker in the 1970s and is part of a family group that now owns 10 banks.
His routine is to work six days a week, with time set aside for church at First Baptist Church, Salem, on Sunday mornings and evenings as well as Wednesday nights. He was licensed to the ministry in the 1960s, and he loves to sing in the choir.
“I was asked to be minister of music until they could find somebody, and that lasted for 30 years,” Gott said. “I did it all on a volunteer basis, and I got paid for it by the blessings that I received, and that’s worth more than money.
“I love music. I love Southern Gospel quartet music. I can sing bass to most any song you put in front of me.”
He said that he finds joy in being a Christian businessman by being able to serve customers.
“I’m a real people person, and I enjoy the fellowship that I have with our customers,” Gott said. “It’s been my pleasure to share my testimony with customers. It’s been my pleasure to see customers saved because of what God has been able to do through me. I never am ashamed of my testimony and the fact that I am a Christian.”
Another one of Gott’s interests is Southwest Baptist University (SBU), where he serves as a trustee. The educational center at the Baptist university in Bolivar is named for the Gotts, and Wayne’s legacy, in part, is being built through the naming of a residence facility for men as Gott Hall.
“We believe in Christian higher education, and we also have a Southwest Baptist satellite center in Salem, and that’s the Gott Center for Christian Higher Education (with about 225 students enrolled),” he said. “That’s been a real pleasure to me to see folks, mostly non-traditional students, who are there to graduate and get a degree and go from a minimum-wage job to $25,000 a year. That’s really been a joy to me to see that happen in a Christian college in a Christian atmosphere. The students really, really enjoy that.”
“My dad was a country store operator, and I always wanted to be in the grocery business,” he said.
In 1954, with money on loan from his father, he bought a store in Bradleyville, down in Taney County. He eventually earned enough to put in a new supermarket in Salem.
The idea of ridiculously wealthy national chain stores coming into rural Missouri and beating the brains out of local grocery store owners like Gott is a bit repulsive to the man from Salem.
“We are real solid financially,” he said. “We can give old-fashioned service that (nationally known chain supermarkets) can’t give. Service is certainly important to our customers. Yes, they’re tough, but we’ve found that we can survive by giving old-fashioned service. We’ve got some things to offer that they don’t have.”
“Our store is going to do well here,” he said in a cellular phone conversation from Mountain Grove. “We’ve got the best location between Springfield and West Plains. We own 12½ acres of land right here at the junction of (Highway) 60 and 95, and that’s where we’ve built our store. We’ve owned this land for a number of years and just now felt like we were financially able to build on it.”