Lynn Gust, 64, started his career with Kroger in 1970 as a parcel clerk at Fred Meyer in Vancouver, Wash. He went on to serve as a food department manager, training coordinator, grocery buyer and director of grocery sales. Gust became vice president of Fred Meyer in 1996 and president in 2012.
Gust retired on Feb. 1, 2016. Here he takes stock of his career and life after work.
Farewell to all that
When it came to the last day, my decision was to say two things: Thank you and goodbye. I'm probably the last leader in Fred Meyer who actually had a one-on-one with Mr. Meyer. There’s a lot of history and heritage that, when I left, came with me.
The person I grew into was a piece of everybody whom I worked for, or folks who worked for me. You learn how to treat people and how not to treat people. There were some bad days, but I'll tell anybody who will listen I had the best job in the world when I was the president of Fred Meyer.
I wouldn't have met my wife had I not worked at Fred Meyer. She was working part-time getting ready to go into nursing.
The great thing about my job was the freedom: If I wanted to spend the day with a store manager or a district manager, or scope out the competition, I could. It's a job I could have held on to forever, but at some point it’s time to step aside. There were changes coming that I may or may not have agreed with. So let someone with a more open mind do what I did. It was hard, but I knew it was time.
Lynn Gust, former president, Fred Meyer
I was thinking of retirement as a great long vacation. That wears off pretty quick. You’ve got to have meaning. My wife and I tried to adjust to each other. I knew I loved her; I didn't know if I liked her enough to spend 24 hours a day together. We’re still married, so it's working out so far.
We had a big house in Irvington with just the two of us. I convinced my wife to try condo life downtown. I love it, but she misses a house for the kids to come home to. But when we go someplace, we can lock the doors and we’re good.
Never stop learning
I’m attending Umpqua Community College online for a law degree. I don't know if I can get a jurisprudence doctorate, but I am going to get a bachelor’s. I made a conscious decision to read a variety of books. That allows me to stay connected outside of my little world.
I was 22 when I became an assistant manager. The company had profit sharing for salaried employees. The guy I was working for said, "Sign up for this, and start putting away 5% of your salary." It was hard, but I started saving early and never stopped.
The check is not in the mail
It is a big adjustment the first time you don't get a paycheck. You know you have enough money to live on, but it’s kind of creepy.
I grew up in a world where everybody thought Kmart was going to be the death of every retailer. And when Walmart came into the Northwest, we thought we were all dead. Does Amazon have a head start with Whole Foods? Yes. But one thing about this business is there’s not a lot of secrets. Mr. Meyer used to say: "Let’s adapt what they're doing to our business model." There will be fallout, but Amazon is not going to own the world.
I’m on the Legacy Health Foundation board, and I’d like to get on one or two more boards. I may choose to run for office in Portland. I think our council could use some help.