Deb Smith still has some calls to make, but they won’t be sales calls.
The longest-tenured employee at The Daily Gazette is closing her Rolodex, shutting down her laptop and closing the deal for the final time after 47 years of service.
For the past 45 years, Smith has been the automotive advertising salesperson, not only for The Daily Gazette, but also for several local dealerships.
“Wedekind Motors on State Street, he was my first stop, my first account, my first everything,” Smith, a Clifton Park resident, said. “They’ve been a Chrysler dealer, a Pontiac dealer and now a very successful used-car dealership.”
That isn’t the only dealership that has made its home on the pages, both print and online, with The Daily Gazette under Smith’s guidance.
“Metro Ford, I’m their only automotive rep from The Daily Gazette that they’ve ever had,” Smith said, taking a trip down memory lane inside a conference room near her advertising desk. “They bought the place from Harry Helfrich in 1983; it used to be Helfrich Ford.
“They bought the place and I was their first and only account rep from The Gazette. I had been the account rep with Helfrich Ford.”
Smith has seen changes throughout her career in the buildings she has called home and outside it within her territory.
“You think over the years how much life – you’ve had births, deaths, marriages, divorces, grandchildren, you’ve had all of that,” Smith said, pausing a moment to dab her eyes. “We all work with it and through it.
“Again, it is just a huge family. Everybody cared about everybody, we still do here now.”
She said the same about her clients.
“You know their kids, you get invited to the weddings,” she said. “They bring the grandchildren to see you, that’s what I’m going to miss. That’s a huge part.”
After attending Albany Business College, Smith worked for the Red Cross and later a travel agency specializing in trips to the British Isles. When unrest took hold of the area overseas, the agency folded, and Smith was out of work.
“I was unemployed, it was the summer, so that was OK,” she laughed, “But then unemployment called and said you had to get a job.”
She began her Gazette career as a sales operator in advertising, moved to a secretarial position and within her first two years an advertising position became available.
“A territory opened up and they asked me if I wanted it,” Smith said. “I said yes, and I’ve been doing automotive all these years.”
She fondly remembers her time at the downtown Schenectady Gazette building, her home from 1973 to 1990.
“GE was there, a high-end ladies shop was across the street. There were people everywhere,” she said. “At lunchtime it was great because people were walking the streets, getting lunch, doing a little bit of shopping.
“I remember Betsie [Hume Lind]’s dad [David] had the office in front of the building,” she said. “You could see he had his drapes open because he loved to watch the people on the street; everybody waved to him. A nice, nice man.
“That’s what I came into, it was high energy in the sense that it was moving, churning and going well.”
Eventually, in 1990, the newspaper moved its office to its current home on Maxon Road Extension on the city’s Northside.
While life and the economy had its ups and downs through the years, one thing remained constant – the relationships with her clients.
“I have respect for what they are trying to accomplish and we’re there to help them, always,” Smith said. “For my little world the people that make the changes in automotive in our area know me. If they haven’t met me, they’ve at least heard my name.
“I’ve been around a long time and therefore they’re going to trust me. I’m upfront and honest with them.”
Now, at age 70, Smith has decided to close her sales book.
“I had to think long and hard about it; it was excruciating,” she said. “I’m still struggling with this, but it just kind of made sense somewhere in my head.”
What’s next for Smith? Probably more sales.
“I’ve discovered that I love to do floral arrangements and I also discovered that I love to have garage sales, estate sales. I’m going to do some of that,” she said. “I’d love to get back into traveling, because that was a lot of fun.”
Now, she starts her final rounds of good lucks and goodbyes, first to her clients, then to her family at The Daily Gazette.
“I will absolutely miss my co-workers,” Smith said, followed by a pause and another dab of her eyes. “The support, the huge amount of support from day one, support from everybody.
“If you have a question, somebody has an answer. If you have a difficult account that you’re trying to reach, somebody’s got a way.
“There is always an exchange of information of how to do that, how to accomplish that, always. I will miss that tremendously.”
We will miss you too, Deb.