Bronx, New York-based Baldor Specialty Foods has announced the upcoming retirement of Michael Muzyk, president of the company and an icon in the food distribution industry. Muzyk’s retirement will commence at the end of 2023.
After a career spanning almost 30 years, Muzyk has been looking forward to enjoying more downtime with family and friends in retirement. Because of his dedication to the company, however, he didn’t want to leave until he felt Baldor was well-positioned for the future.
Muzyk and Baldor CEO TJ Murphy worked for more than a year on retirement plans.
“Seeing the strong leader TJ has become and the leadership team he now has behind him, I know this is the right time to move on,” Muzyk said.
Muzyk joined Baldor in 1996 as a sales representative when the company was still in its early days, operating out of a 25,000-square-foot space in Maspeth, Queens. His understanding of the culinary world, gained from his studies at the Culinary Institute of America and his experience in the kitchen at fine dining establishments like La Côte Basque, played a vital role in his success as a Baldor salesperson. He understood what chefs needed and made it his goal to solve their problems.
Doing so, he soon became the “right hand man” of Baldor founder and CEO Kevin Murphy, eventually taking on the role of VP and then president. In 2013, he had the task of helping the company move forward following Murphy’s untimely death and assisting Kevin’s son TJ Murphy to assume the CEO and owner position, which he continues to hold today.
Muzyk’s dedication to working closely with restaurant owners and chefs, combined with his unwavering commitment to delivering high-quality ingredients and best-in-class service, established Baldor’s reputation and propelled the company’s growth.
During his career, Muzyk played a pivotal role in the company’s expansion and success. He helped Baldor establish its 290,000-square-foot headquarters in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, and then expand service from Maine to Virginia, opening regional distribution centers in Boston, the suburbs of Washington D.C., and in Philadelphia. He expanded the company’s product catalog beyond produce to include specialty, dairy and meat; he also led the acquisition of Pierless Fish.
He spearheaded the development of Fresh Cuts, Baldor’s processed fruit and vegetable operation, which has now grown to employ more than 300 workers. Muzyk also played a part in various initiatives, including the company’s involvement in aiding the city’s recovery after the events of 9/11, delivering essential food supplies during the NYC blackout, giving aid during Superstorm Sandy and keeping the Baldor trucks running when the company pivoted to home delivery during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Today, Baldor sells more than 5,000 SKUs and services more than 400 routes for 12,000-plus customers.
“I don’t reflect much on the past, because I’ve always been so focused on the future, but looking back, I do see my fingerprint all over Baldor, and I’m proud of what we’ve done,” Muzyk said.
“In the last few years of his life, Kevin and I spoke often about the future of the company, and I committed to doing everything I could to make Baldor and TJ successful. I think I’ve lived up to that promise. I’m grateful for the trust and support I received from the team and our customers to enable my success.”
Commenting on Muzyk’s retirement, TJ Murphy said, “I’ve known Michael most of my life, and I can say that his dedication to Baldor over the years has been astounding. His career here has been defined by his huge heart and his unwavering commitment to our customers, vendors and employees. He’s touched thousands of lives and careers, including my own. I’m personally so grateful for his many contributions and his help transitioning this company from my father to me, and I wish him the best on a well-deserved retirement.”
Moving forward, Murphy will continue to guide the strategic vision of the company along its current growth trajectory. He and Muzyk decided that they would not appoint another president.
“I couldn’t expect anyone to fill Michael’s shoes,” Murphy said. “He’s one of one.”
But they did decide that they needed to bolster the leadership team with subject-matter executives from larger companies who could help Baldor continue to scale up. So, in the past 18 months, they have added eight people to the VP/SVP level, and they will continue to hire a few key roles to the C-suite in coming months.
Between now and end of year, Muzyk will work with Murphy to ensure a smooth transition. Muzyk will focus on knowledge transfer and ensuring continuity for the team. He will also participate in the hiring process for new leaders.
Baldor will continue to build upon its market presence, utilizing the foundation laid by Muzyk’s years of service.