Spotlight: Amy’s Bread, 2015 Age Smart Employer Award Winner

Amy’s Bread is a bread and pastry bakery in Queens, New York. Goods are sold through three retail cafes and distribution to over 250 wholesale customers daily. The business was launched in 1992 in Hell’s Kitchen with 5 employees. Today the staff has grown to 190.

Amy’s Bread takes pride in its old-fashioned bread making techniques, with everything done by hand. The years of experience and knowledge older workers bring to this environment is invaluable as, Amy Scherber, the company’s owner, says: “their hands just know how to do the work.”

“They have to watch the dough rise. They have to know when it’s browned enough. There’s no timer. You just do it by looking at it,”

Scherber explains the value she places in her employees, many who have grown up together.

“I think we are just aware of what people want and need. It’s a way of thinking. We listen and encourage them and adjust as need be. We treat them like the great assets to the company that they are; this has made people be really proud to work here and creates a culture of respect.”

Specific Age Smart Policies & Practices

HIRING

• Amy’s Bread posts job openings to school alumni lists that attract an older age range, rather than sites like craigslist where mostly young people are searching.

JOB RESTRUCTURING & TRAINING

• If physical work is becoming too much for an older worker they may transition to a role that is better suited for their ability. Owner, Amy Scherber gave several examples: “Working the oven is hard on your shoulders so we’ll give an older person the easier side of the oven. No one gripes about it; we’re a team. One of our older bakers used to divide the dough every morning, which involves heavy lifting and a dividing machine which is very physical. When we recognized it was too much for him, we switched him over to loading the oven and shaping.”

FLEXIBILITY IN SCHEDULING

• Remote access has been set up for all employees so if they are able to do their job from home or out-of-the-office, they are allowed to do so.

BENEFITS

• Last year they launched a health insurance program that is paid for 100% by Amy’s Bread. They have a 401k plan for employees with a matching contribution. Both of these benefits are unusual in the food service industry.
• Employees who are caring for a loved one can take a few days off or a longer leave of absence, and their jobs will be held for them.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR THOSE APPROACHING RETIREMENT/RETIREES

• Employees nearing retirement can gradually taper down their work. As owner Amy Scherber explained, “Three of our bakers slowly tapered their days down from 5 days a week to 4 and then 3 to stay involved before finally retiring.”
• The business’s longtime leader and recently retired CFO has remained involved, supporting the team when needed.
 
Click here for a list of all of our 2015 winners