At 16 years old in 1963, Bill Fauerbach faced a choice: Winn-Dixie or Publix.
Both chains offered him work, but Winn-Dixie turned down his friend and fellow job-seeker. So off they went to bag groceries together at Publix in Lighthouse Point.
"What a wonderful decision that was," Fauerbach said. "It was 85 cents an hour, and my goal was to get to $1 an hour. It took me a year to get there. I was the big time then."
Fauerbach, a Pompano Beach native, retired Friday after 47 years of full-time service with Publix. The top executive in the grocery titan's Southeast Florida division, he spent his last day exactly as he did his first: as a bagger at store No. 56 in Lighthouse Point.
Donning a green Publix shirt, apron and black baseball cap, Fauerbach shook hands and chatted with shoppers. He was extra careful with egg cartons and made sure the bread stayed off the bottom.
Although he hauled people's groceries to their cars, he turned down tips — true to Publix's policy.
"It's a personal thing for me," Fauerbach said of his day bagging. "You start here and you end here."
More than two-dozen of his district managers and his two sons, both Publix employees, attended Friday's farewell. They rolled out a green carpet — no way it could be red — and clapped as he escorted the last few customers to their cars. Then they ate cake.
Fauerbach's philosophy as a store manager in the 1970s was to hire teens and work around their schedules. He felt it was important to reward kids who wanted to juggle a job, school and sports.
"Only problem was, he hired my whole soccer team and when we had a game, there was no one to bag groceries," joked his son, Troy, now a store manager in Miami-Dade County.
During his 17 years as vice president of South Florida, Fauerbach helped increase store count by 65 percent and profit by more than 188 percent.
"We worked with him, not for him," said Barbara Batchelder, a district manager and 40-year Publix employee. "For many of us, we were successful because of him."
Fauerbach, 67, plans to fish and golf and spend more time with his wife, Dottie, and their children and grandchildren. He also wants to become a youth sports umpire or referee.
Come Monday, he can sleep in guilt-free. But he doubts he will.
"I'll still get up at 4:30 a.m.," he said. "It'll probably be automatic."
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