Paul Schiefer - Director of European Operations
What is your connection to Andy, Rachel and Amy? My step-father, Joel, is Rachel’s brother, and ever since he met my mother in 1987, the Berliners have been a big part of my life. My first memory of Amy was of her eating (or maybe that was more smearing food all over the place) in her high chair in their kitchen when she was only a year old. Since then we have had many great memories growing up together – from hiking in Yosemite, to surfing in Mexico, to sitting down for great homemade dinners as a family.
How long have you worked at Amy’s?
My first “official” summer job at Amy’s was at age 16 helping to measure flour and other ingredients for our Chefs when they developed our delicious pizza crust. Over the years, I worked in various other departments during the summer, but when I graduated college, I felt the need to gain experience in outside industry for a few years before coming back to Amy’s. I have now worked here in a “professional” capacity for three years – enjoying every minute of it.
What is your current position at Amy’s?
I am currently the Director of Information Services at Amy’s. I have always had an interest in technology – especially in how technology connects the business together. I often think we in IT develop the nervous system of the organization. More and more often, we rely on the computer systems to deliver critical information necessary for planning and working each day. We have a great IT team here at Amy’s that works hard everyday to give the business great service and systems so they can focus on what matters most to us – making delicious food.
What do you enjoy about your current job?
Above and beyond all, I enjoy working for a company with a strong purpose. Amy’s is unique in that while we are a business, making products that align with our values is still more important than the bottom line.
I understand you will be soon going to England. What is happening there and what is your role?
We have been selling our products in the UK for the last 10 years, but as Amy’s continues striving towards genuine sustainability, we’ve decided that locally producing for our markets, as much as possible, decreases our environmental footprint making us a more responsible company. So, we have decided to start a small manufacturing plant in the UK to make the food for the European market using local ingredients and local employees. Another colleague, Steve Warnert, and I will be relocating to the UK this summer to start up the plant and expand the market for our products. We are both thrilled about the opportunity and feel that there is a great place in the market for our products.
What are you looking forward to with your new adventure in England?
This upcoming adventure in the UK is exciting on so many levels. From a business point-of-view, seeing a new venture start from the ground up should prove incredible. We will be able to pull from the years of experience we have developed at home but will also need to innovate and adapt to the European way of business. From a personal standpoint, I have always wanted to live in a foreign country and experience a different culture first hand. I hope to join a soccer team, maybe try rowing in Cambridge, visit some festivals and art fairs, and just get to know the neighbors. I also hope, when my schedule permits, to travel around Europe and to treat myself to a firsthand European History class.
Do you have any funny stories about visiting the Berliners when you were a kid?
When we were younger, we had a tradition of us kids putting on a Thanksgiving show for the adults. One year, we formed a rock band called the “Corny Wanabees.” We were a long-haired, crazy-dressed, glam-rock band. Well it’s fine to perform in front of a few people who know you too well to be embarrassed, but a whole different thing to perform in public. One day, we were visiting Amy’s grandmother, Clarice, at her retirement home, when Andy decided we should put on a show for Clarice and her senior citizen friends! As self-conscious teenagers we said “No” – but Andy, somehow, bribed us and the show was on. Despite our embarrassment and poor vocal talents, we did end up putting on quite a show. Amy and my sister provided some choreographed dancing and all of us sang together in an off-key ballad. We had most of those silver-haired seniors up and dancing by the end!
What happened when you tried to set up an Amy’s “soup kitchen” at Burning Man last year?
For the last few years I have been able to attend an alternative art festival called Burning Man that is held yearly in the Northern Nevada desert. It’s like a city in the desert, but, unlike a “normal” city, at Burning Man, you might come across a school bus-sized pirate ship driving into the dusk, or witness some body-painted fire dancers, or meander into a theme camp where hundreds of people are mimicking monkeys in unison. No money is used at Burning Man—but rather an extensive “gift” culture provides for everyone. This last year, a group of friends and I decided to build our own camp and give it the theme of “Yes Soup for You” rather than the Seinfeld version of “No Soup for You.” However, we quickly realized that when it is 100 degrees out, dusty, and windy – the last thing people want to eat is hot soup! Fortunately, we were still able to give out most of the cans to hungry people (most of whom just preferred to open the can and eat it cold) and we left the last few cases with the hardworking volunteers who make sure that once all 50,000 people go home there is not a trace of the event left in the desert.
What do you like to do when you are not at work?
Living here in beautiful Northern California, there is so much to do that it is hard to find time to do it all. But I do love to go mountain biking, snowboarding, surfing, backpacking, hiking, ocean kayaking, or just about any other outdoor adventure I can find! I also enjoy photographing our local wilderness, dabbling in ceramics, and attending festivals and concerts. For the last year, I have had the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and Economy. LIFEE is a regional, non-profit running a nine-month training program for developing community leadership –-with in an emphasis on sustainability. And… when I can find the time, I love nothing more than cooking up a huge feast at my house and having friends and family come by to enjoy.
What’s your favorite Amy’s Product?
They are too many great products to just have one favorite. I really enjoy the new Enchilada Verde, 3 Cheese Pizza with a Cornmeal Crust, Lentil Vegetable Soup, and the original Pot Pie.