Family Fare Side Bar II
Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways – this sidebar was not included in the original print publication.
Side Bar: Gustav Brunn: “I thought I could make a better seasoning”
“My first job, I was an apprentice…in a leather business. [Then] I bought an old company in Germany…they had rawhides, a big outfit, and quite a number of employees. I took that one over. They had rawhide and furs, and besides that, they had a spice business, but in a very small way. After that, the rawhide and fur business was not good, not much profit, so I built my spice business up. In former years, I had only pure spices. Then later I started out and made ready seasonings…for a special purpose.
My first job in America was in the sausage factory. You heard the name Salganik? He had a sausage factory on Lombard Street. I tried to get a job here with a spice company, McCormick Company. I was working there, but his chemist wasn’t much interested. I didn’t talk enough English, my English was very bad at that time. I was there, I believe two days or so, three days, and then when he said you don’t understand English, then he wanted to fire me.
Then I rented the second floor down on Market Place, across the street from the wholesale fish market, a cheap price on it, and I started out to install this little metal [grinder]…. First of all, then I didn’t know anything about here, what to grind, what to make. So I went from one wholesale grocer to another, then I came to B. Green & Company [a local Jewish-owned business], existing today as a wholesale grocer on a much larger scale. Old Bennie Green of B. Green & Company was very nice to me, and he showed me – I asked what spice sold here, I didn’t know anything about the American spice business. So he showed me packing pepper, ten pound boxes, and in pails, 30 pound pails. He gave me information, what he has to pay for, what they are buying on spices.
I thought I could make a better seasoning for the seafood people….I started to mix it and improved it and improved it more, and so when our product was ready for selling, I would go over in the wholesale fish market across the street from where I started out and I wanted to sell already seasoning to these people. Oh, no, they didn’t buy the seasoning, they have the best shrimp and crabs in the city, and they had their own secret recipes, everybody, and they wouldn’t buy it….So finally, I got a man a few weeks later, a seafood wholesaler around the corner there on Water Street, and I talked him in, he should take five or ten pounds….And this man’s business increased with it. You see they liked it, when he sold his crabs they liked it a whole lot better than the others….so I got one customer after another. And these seafood men here in the city and in the whole area must have it today.”
~Excerpted from Oral History 112 Gustav and Ralph Brunn May 7, 1980