What does it take to work for the same business for almost half a century?

Think of Gary Braunstein as Pied Piper from lox. During his 47-year tenure at Acme Smoked Fish, the Brooklyn-based company in Brooklyn, New York, Braunstein took almost every job.

He cut more than his share of salmon. He was loading trucks. And in his most public role, he helped hold Fish Friday, a weekly event where the company sells its products directly to consumers at big discounts. In fact, he became especially famous for Gary’s Special Dishes – dishes he created just for Fish Friday, like smoked salmon in a sweet Thai chili sauce.

You can still order Gary’s Special these days, but you probably won’t see Braunstein in action. He retired from Acme in May, completing his nearly half-century cycle with a festive edition of Fish Friday. Many of the regular customers bought Gary’s special-themed T-shirts for the occasion.

On this day, MarketWatch caught up with 69-year-old Braunstein, a member of the Acme family, to hear what finally led to his departure. But just as importantly, we wanted to know what made him work for so long in the same place. Naturally, family loyalty played a role in Braunstein’s case, but in an era where the average length of service is 5.4 years, the history of the fishmonger as a “lifelong” company, as he described himself, offers a lesson in perseverance. anti-retirement lesson if you will.

Here are six things we learned from Braunstein about what it takes to stay in a company for many years.

You have to love the mission

Yes, Braunstein loves his locks. And his herring. And almost all the products that Acme offers. He talked about eating fish all the time – and he loved finding new ways to use it in recipes, as seen in his Gary Special Product. He may point out the obvious, but if Braunstein didn’t have that connection to what Acme is, he said it may not have been so easy to enjoy the trip.

Be in a place where you can change things

Braunstein may have worked for the same company for 47 years, but he never held the same position for too long, as evidenced by his responsibilities, which really range from managing the cutting department to working on Fish Friday. “I liked the fact that it was never stagnant,” he said. He even retains a sense of humor about what may have been his most difficult job: working in the herring room, arranging barrel after barrel of fish.

Besides, Braunstein could do many things every day. And what was his title? “There were no titles. We just did what we had to do, “he said.

Gary Braunstein (right) talks to a regular customer of Acme Fish Friday on his last day of work.

Charles Passy

It helps to work for a winner

Braunstein noted that many of Acme’s competitors have gone out of business in the last few decades. Meanwhile, Acme has continued to grow: he said revenue has increased in all his 47 years with the company except one. Naturally, Acme is taking advantage of the loss of competition, but the company has also increased its business due to the way it innovates.

Braunstein was an integral part of this innovation: he helped Acme launch items ranging from white fish salad to smoked salmon inspired by the Hawaiian Islands. He also played an important role in helping Acme come up with different ways to package its products, which in turn played a big role in expanding the company’s footprint in stores. The point, Braunstein said, is that working with a thriving business enables employees to thrive.

It also helps you be at work that keeps you physically active

Much of Braunstein’s job involved being on his feet. He did more than his share of lifting and moving things – or bending over to fix a freezer. He said that sometimes childbirth takes away an instrument on his body, but in general the physical aspect of his work gives him some advantage. “You feel good,” he said.

It’s all about the people – and the benefits

Speaking to dozens of colleagues at Acme’s Brooklyn headquarters, Braunstein said friendship has always been the order of the day: “They love me, I love them.” And camaraderie matters when you’re with an organization for a long time, Braunstein said.

But do not forget the benefits. He certainly isn’t. He remembered enjoying free knives – a Jewish specialty made from baked dough stuffed with potatoes or other ingredients – from a bookstore whose facility is near Acme (Acme will supply the company’s product). Similarly, a nearby bakery often provides Acme crew with free rye bread. When Braunstein talks about these little extras that came with life at Acme, he makes it clear that they have also contributed to his happiness in the company.

Know when it’s really time to retire

For Braunstein, the decision to retire was very much related to his wife’s death last year. In addition to the obvious heartache he caused, he said it changed much of his routine and made him take on homework he hadn’t had before. “It was hard for me to do that while I was going to work,” he said. In the end, he just instinctively knew he had to retire. “I woke up (one day) and said to myself, ‘It’s time.’

Braunstein, a New Jersey resident, said his retirement would give him more time to play golf, his favorite pastime. His immediate plan is to “take a year and find out,” he said of his new life. He also does not rule out accidental repeat visits to Acme, especially on Fish Friday. “They want me to come back all the time,” he said.

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