Irwin Pastor, a second-term at-large commissioner, says he wants to finish what he's started.
Irwin Pastor started sorting Pepsi bottles when he was 8 years old.
By the time he retired, he said his Pepsi franchise controlled 75% of all the soda and water sold in western New York — but he knew the business couldn’t grow anymore. So he decided to retire.
“As soon as I came over the bridge, I knew this was going to be the place,” Pastor said.
That bridge was the New Pass Bridge and that place, he said, was Longboat Key.
Pastor, 75, has qualified as an incumbent candidate for the Town Commission At-Large seat — hoping to finish his third and final term in the seat he’s held since 2014.
It’s a position Pastor said residents asked him to pursue, a situation he said he’s found himself in almost every job he’s had since he was a teenager when his parents pushed him to cut grass and shovel snow.
“Anything I’ve ever done in my life, I’ve never pursued it, but someone has always come to me and asked me, ‘Would you do this?’ ” Pastor said. “And I only get involved if I think I can make a difference.”
But Pastor always knew he’d get into business, he said. That’s what he studied at the University of Buffalo, which, by the time he graduated, he said was renamed the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Pastor met his wife of 54 years, Sylvia, in his senior year there, he said. He asked her on a date, and when he knocked on the door to pick her up, Pastor said he thought he was at the wrong house. So he apologized to the woman, unfamiliar with her beehive hairdo.
“She says ‘Irwin?’ and I said ‘Sylvia?’ — like in TV. So it’s luck this thing went beyond this,” Pastor said.
Pastor also played hockey, a sport that taught him the value of competitiveness, how to take losses and what it means to overcome conflict — even when that strife often ended with his hockey gloves on the ice, trading blows with his opponent, he said.
“I’m competitive, but I also have the ability to move on and look at issues as themselves,” Pastor said.
These values helped him in his family’s soft drink business, which he entered as a Pepsi salesman soon after he graduated, he said. Pastor worked his way through the franchise and took over for his uncle as general manager within 10 years, he said.
He left the Pepsi business in 1983, bought his own beer wholesaler in Atlantic City, N.J., and grew it to the largest such operation in the state, he said. That’s when his uncle and father approached him about taking over the family business, Pastor said.
He eventually bought the franchise outright, owning Pepsi’s western New York operation for eight years before he sold it to the corporation, he said. Although he wanted out of the business, Pepsi executives wooed him with a consulting offer that made him feel “like the No. 1 draft in the NFL,” Pastor said.
Pastor still does some consulting work for Pepsi, but most of his time is taken by his work as the condominium board president of L’Ambiance At Longboat Key and with his work as an island policy maker. Although he’s done it for years, Pastor said people still ask him why.
“I’ve never had anybody come up to me and be nasty to me,” Pastor said. “They express themselves differently, yeah we have issues and stuff like that, but they do it in a very intelligent way and you may find out they’re right. So I said, ‘Why wouldn’t you want to serve?’”