By Arianna Geneson
Some traditions are hard to break, even when the rest of the world seems to have moved on.
Pioneer Supermarket on Columbus between 73rd and 74th Streets has been closed on Sundays since the Eisenhower administration. That changed last Sunday.
Opened in 1959, Pioneer has always been a family-run store. Longtime owner Lenny Franzblau was a staple of the Upper West Side for decades — there are stories of him allowing people to pay with IOUs. Since Lenny’s death in 2014, Pioneer has stayed in the Franzblau family and is currently run and operated by his son and their many long-time employees.
One employee, Frank, has been working at Pioneer for 21 years. When asked why Pioneer made this big change, Frank noted that it is something customers have asked about for years. He also noted the many changes to the neighborhood and that the store has new competition: “Two years ago we didn’t. Now it’s vicious.”
Customers already seem happy with Pioneer’s new schedule. One customer, Rhadia, a five-year resident of the Upper West Side, commented on the convenience as well as the unique quality of shopping at a store like Pioneer. “There’s obviously something special about coming to a place that’s been in business as long as they have.” Working as a chef, Rhadia has to grocery shop every day and visits Pioneer once a week. She has close relationships with the store’s employees. “It’s good when they know you because they’ll tell you what to get—what’s the freshest.”
Those relationships are what make Pioneer and other long-time shops in the neighborhood unique. Frank commented on the many regular customers he has seen and gotten to know over the years. “I’ve seen some girls who were eight years old—now they’re 40 years old.” Frank has made friends with many Pioneer regulars, receiving gifts of socks and even toys for his son in the past.
While Pioneer has experienced some big changes over the years, it seems it still embraces the neighborhood values of family and community.
Top photo by Brian. Second photo by Arianna Geneson.