June 7, 2011
by Bernard Shire
Lee Seelig, vice president of Main Street Wholesale Meats in Farmingdale, NY, is an exemplary employee with team spirit who’s also rela-tively new to the meat and poultry industry. When he graduated from the Univ. of Michigan in 1999 with a business degree, he didn’t head back home to start working in the family meat business. Instead, Seelig began working as a promoter in the music industry.
“I was managing and promoting rock bands in college, so I ended up continuing to do this for eight years,” he says with a laugh. “I worked at a record label and at a night club.”
By the time he was in his early 30s, Seelig was married and found that he and his wife were ready to start a family and settle down. He says it became apparent that music promotion was probably not a feasible career for life’s “big picture.” “We started talking about having chil-dren and about what I wanted to do with my life. Having worked for his father’s business, Main Street Wholesale Meats, as a delivery man during high school, the younger Seelig took the plunge about three years ago. “I decided to stop promoting bands and get into the meat busi-ness with my family,” he says.
As it turns out, his experience in the music industry has already paid off handsomely for his family’s meat business.
“The unique skills Lee developed promoting rock bands, he applied to the meat business with great results,” says his father, Kent Seelig, who is president of the company. “He’s the grandson of the company founder and he’s grown the business 20 percent since joining the com-pany,” with annual sales that are about $15 million. One of Lee’s notable accomplishments has been the development of a proprietary blend of ground beef and burgers known as “The 1946 Blend” [named for the year Lee’s grandfather, Julius, started the company]. He has a natu-ral ability to lead, with a good head for business and ability to quickly and creatively solve complex problems. Main Street Meats is in good hands for many years to come.”
Lee’s other accomplishments include developing and bringing in additional sales prospects. “I’ve been able to bring in customers and res-taurants, including a younger generation of chefs as customers. I’ve also redesigned our website and developed a 1,500-person email list – pretty good for a little butcher shop on Long Island.”
He says what he enjoys most about working in the meat industry is increasing sales. It can take six months or a year to build a good cus-tomer relationship, he says, “but then you’ve accomplished something very tangible. I enjoy the day-to-day work, the problem-solving, be-ing customer-oriented, getting things done how we want them – for example, this restaurant wants the rack of lamb done this way, and we do that so they’ll be pleased and a good, steady customer.”
Still, there are challenges in the meat industry, especially in a family owned business, and Lee doesn’t shy away from them. “Most chal-lenging is working closely with my father. It’s a new kind of relationship from what you’re used to. I might get in at 3:30 am and work until 6 pm and my Dad will say, ‘Let’s have dinner together.’” We’ll talk about what’s going on, and he’s very passionate, he wants me to take the reins. But he also wants things run his way. That’s hard.”
When Lee thinks about his goals, they include: “Short-term, delivering our products as early as possible, as well as expansion projects in the works. Long-term, growing the business, doubling the gross sales, and making sure there’s a smooth company transition eventually. That’s the most important goal of all,” he says. Bernard Shire is a contributing editor and a feature writer based in Lancaster, Pa. Shire also works as a food safety consultant and writer for Shire & Associates LLC.