What started as a small car wreck recycling business in 1964 is now a big company with nine yards. Sam Gershowitz, founder of New York City area-based Gershow Recycling has been honoured with the 2020 ISRI Lifetime Achievement Award.
The US Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries presented Gershowitz with the annual award during an online ceremony. ‘Sam’s commitment to the industry and drive to improve the lives of his employees is truly unmatched,’ says ISRI President Robin Wiener. ‘From his work ethic to the many ways he benefits his community through numerous philanthropic efforts, Sam – and Gershow – embody the best of all our industry has to offer. ISRI is proud to recognise Sam with its 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.’
Immigrant success story
The son of Polish and Russian immigrants to the United States, Gershowitz quit school at 17 to support his family in Brooklyn, New York. On days off from work, he travelled to the Hamptons on Long Island where he noticed abandoned cars and scrap metal on the side of the roads. To address this problem, he founded Gershow Auto Parts & Wreckers in 1964.
In 1981, he changed the company’s name to Gershow Recycling to reflect the company’s growth and overall commitment to recycling and conservation, later adding the motto ‘Conserving the Future by Recycling the Past’. From its beginnings as a two-person operation with a tractor-trailer, a truck, and a mobile car baler, Gershow has grown to nine facilities on Long Island and in Brooklyn, processing ferrous and non-ferrous metal, paper and plastics, and employing more than 750 people.
Long hours on Long Island
‘Being recognised by one’s peers is the highest honour one could receive,’ comments Gershowitz. ‘A lot of hard work and long hours went into Gershow Recycling. It is our people, along with our dedicated managers – some who have been with Gershow for more than 25 years – and our employees that have made Gershow the success it is today.’
The recycler attributes the company’s success to his wife Marlena and praises the contributions of mother-in-law Jeanne Lederman, brother Lou, nephew Ira and daughter Pamela. Gershow is a third-generation family business with sons Kevin and Elliot running the day-to-day operations while son-in-law Jonathan Abrams and grandson Alexander are also part of the company. ‘I am truly a lucky man to be able to work with my family every day,’ he says.
Yard, marina and charity
Over the years, Gershowitz has invested in the equipment, technology, property, and people to ensure Gershow’s continued success. He proudly states that the company has never laid off a single worker, even in the worst economic conditions. Now, at the age of 81, he continues to put time in at Gershow and at Sam’s Star Island Yacht Club & Marina, which he owns.
Gershow Recycling’s philanthropic endeavours include support of cancer-related charities, scholarships for students pursuing engineering or environmental degrees, and contributions to environmental organisations.