Chuck Surack of Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne Named 2019 Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year by Indiana Chamber

(INDIANAPOLIS) – A 40-year musical journey continues to hit on all the high notes, leading to the recognition of Chuck Surack as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year.

Chuck Surack

Surack, founder and president of Sweetwater Sound, also owns more than a dozen other businesses and is a vital contributor to hundreds of community and philanthropic causes in the Fort Wayne area. Any success, he says, is based on a simple formula.

“We’re in it for the long haul. I don’t care if I make money on one sale or transaction, or a second transaction,” he declares. “What I want to do is the right thing for our employees and our customers. If we do that, I’ve figured out the money does seem to follow. It’s (all about) a way for us to add value. I love adding value.”

Sweetwater is a leading online retailer of musical instruments and technology, shipping thousands of guitars, microphones and other equipment each week. Sales in 2019 are expected to exceed $800 million. Its campus serves as a recording and performance home for musicians from Fort Wayne and around the world.

“Sweetwater, beginning with Chuck Surack recording musical performances from the back of his Volkswagen bus 40 years ago, is a classic entrepreneurial success story of working hard and doing the right thing,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “Add in Chuck’s commitment to creating and saving jobs, as well as his tireless desire to assist those less fortunate, and he is the perfect choice for this honor.”

A graduate of Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, Surack began as a touring musician for five years, playing the saxophone. He still performs in two bands, including the Sweetwater All-Stars. The lure of working in the industry attracts many talented musicians to the company.

“I would guess 70% to 75% of the people here (among more than 1,800 employees) have a music background,” Surack states. “They want to work at Sweetwater because they happen to be a musician too. They want to be in that environment. I’ve got that advantage (in attracting workers).”

Among Surack’s other companies are SweetCars, Sweet Aviation, The Clyde (performance and event venue) and Longe Optical. Outstanding customer service and the pursuit of excellence are the focuses in all his businesses. 

Last year’s Ogletree Deakins Business Leader of the Year was Purdue University President Mitch Daniels.

Surack will be honored at the Indiana Chamber’s 30th Annual Awards Dinner, presented by Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, on November 7. Activities are held at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis and will also include a presentation of three additional awards: the Birch Bayh-Richard Lugar Government Leader of the Year (Gov. Eric Holcomb), Dynamic Business Leader of the Year (John Thompson) and Republic Airways and LIFT Academy Community of the Year (Plymouth).

Democrat political strategist Donna Brazile and Republican commentator Dana Perino, two prominent political voices at Fox News with links to the White House, are teaming up to keynote the dinner. Seating is limited. Tables of 10 start at $1,650; individual tickets are $165 each. Either can be purchased online at or by calling (800) 824-6885.

The event’s opening reception is sponsored by PNC. The speaker sponsor is OneAmerica.

Corporate sponsors are AT&T Indiana, CBRE, French Lick Resort, NIPSCO, Tilson and Zimmer Biomet.

Contributing sponsors are AECOM Hunt; Community Health Network; Corteva Agriscience™, Agriculture Division of DowDuPont; Eskenazi Health Foundation; Fineline Printing Group; IGT Indiana; Indiana Soybean Alliance/Indiana Corn Marketing Council; Indiana Wesleyan University; Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick; KERAMIDA Inc.; Markey’s Rental & Staging; MCM CPAs & Advisors; Pacers Sports & Entertainment; Plymouth Foundry, Inc.; Roche Diagnostics Corporation; Subaru of Indiana Automotive, Inc.; The Kroger Co.; UPS: Vectren, A CenterPoint Energy Company; WFYI Productions; and WGU Indiana.

Additional sponsorships for the Indiana Chamber’s 30th Annual Awards Dinner are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876 or