The Pioneer Linens Story
Like many great pioneers, Max Greenberg entered the U.S. through Ellis Island alone and still a teenager. He worked in New York City for several years before moving to Florida to work at Daytona Hardware. When he heard about the platting of the new town Lake Worth, he took his experience south. A typical frontier town that did not yet have electricity or running water, many inhabitants still lived in tents. In 1912, Pioneer Hardware opened its doors on Dixie Avenue, selling just what pioneers would need :
||Dynamite to blow up the tree stumps
Saw hammers and nails to build the houses
Glass, screen and sash weights for windows
Door knobs, hinges, and lots of white paint
Kerosene lanterns for light
Chicken wire, guns and fish hooks
Wash tubs, washboards, and clothes line
Growth in South Florida
As Lake Worth prospered, Max saw the opportunity to open a new line of service to locals. Basic housing had been constructed, and a growing population needed new kinds of supplies. The business moved to Lake Avenue, and by 1920 evolved into Pioneer Hardware & Furniture. Along Lake Worth’s main thoroughfare, Pioneer Hardware & Furniture gained a reputation for high quality that brought in people from great distances and made it the largest retailer in town. Max provided goods made as far away as Michigan, and featured a new item that of course shaped modern life, the electric refrigerator. Other items included :
||porcelain top kitchen tables
ice boxes and kerosene stoves
cooking utensils and ice cream makers
dishes and dishpans linoleum and fiber rugs
beds, dressers and rocking chairs
Hurricanes, the Great Depression, and Change
The shape of the Pioneer business and the lives of thousands of people were drastically changed in 1928, when a category 5 hurricane struck the east Florida coast. After the winds subsided, Max Greenberg went to the store to survey the damage. But meteorology then was not what it is now - Max had left in the eye of the storm. When the worst part of the storm hit, Max’s wife and children hid under a downstairs table as their home was battered and torn, and Max witnessed the destruction of his store. The Okeechobee hurricane killed 2500 people and caused $100 million in damage. Max Greenberg was wiped out.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the family regrouped and moved a few miles north toward the burgeoning Palm Beach area. Instead of furniture, Pioneer would focus on more basic home needs such as towels, blankets, rugs, and oil cloth. Max brought in the family library of phonograph records to sell for 10 cents apiece. He traveled to New York to buy towels for 20 cents each that he would sell for 25 cents. Difficult times for businesses nationwide, Max pursued his credo of high standards in quality, inculcating his son George with the same business ethics.
Luxury Linen Specialist
George Greenberg performed one of his first duties for the family business at age eight, riding his bike to deliver a foghorn to the Lake Worth Bridge tender. He graduated from the University of Florida, then went to the University of New York, a student of business and law. After completion of studies and with the onset of WWII, George enrolled in the U.S. Army and was put to work speechwriting. He then worked in the quartermaster to improve army base living conditions, and went into POW camps to inspect living standards. George was also a part of the development of two products that came out of the wartime inventiveness :
- The army needed a substitute for rubber. George and his group developed Neoprene.
- The army wanted a drink to transport. As he says, “I think they call it Nescafe today”, George and his group had created instant coffee.
George Greenberg returned from war and took the helm of Pioneer Linens. His quick insight would change merchandising and lead the company to become the global brand it is today. Two creations represent his clairvoyance :
||When an soldier got out of the shower, there was a wall of clean towels to grab from. This wall, George saw, would be a perfect way to stack many color and style options of towels for sale. He built the first merchandising towel wall, which resonated with customers in selection. This soon brought the executives of major federated department stores to see the talk on Clematis St, and now of course a wall full of towels in cubbies is the method of display you may find in any bath store across the country.
The coordinating fabric around the foot of the bed had always been known as a Dust Ruffle. George liked a more positive term, and began calling it a Bed Skirt. Bedskirt is now the term of choice in much of the country and across the soft goods industry.
Clematis Street to the world
Over the decades George brought in bright managers to further the austerity of the Pioneer Linens name. Leading store designer William Stensgaard revamped the interior and storefront façade. Edward Osborne crafted unique linen displays that would be acclaimed for their pictorial presentation in newspaper ads. George Warren stated his goal of “making Pioneer the most prestigious linen store in the South”, culminating in Pioneer Linens being awarded “Specialty Store of the Year” status by the National Bed and Bath Association representing 2400 stores.
George Greenberg continued to be involved in the business until his death in 2007. Always in a full suit and addressing employees and patrons alike with a formal Mr. or Mrs. title, George Greenberg treated everyone with a great deal of respect. His was the type of persona that gained your respect and simultaneously made you feel better about yourself. He was named “Mayor of Clematis Street” by the mayor of West Palm Beach, one among many honors he received during his lifetime. George ingrained his daughter, Penny Murphy, with the same values of high product quality and endless customer service that had been passed down to him.
Keeping Quality a Family Tradition
Originally an educator, Penny Murphy founded the first area kindergarten in Wellington, Florida. She became Vice President of Pioneer Linens in 1995, gradually taking over day-to-day operations as the business passed to the third generation. Pioneer Linens’ storefront stands as an anchor of the continuing Clematis Street redevelopment, though Penny has taken the company virtual as well. www.pioneerlinens.com has become the major online luxury linen specialist, shipping high-end brands around the country and world.
Alan Murphy, Jr., great-grandson of Max Greenberg, became involved with the company in 2005, developing the white-glove service Yacht Linen division and pushing new growth opportunities forward in the 21st century. Pioneer Linens continues to offer the largest selection of current fashion in high-end linens, and is your repository of factual information about lifelong quality in luxury goods.
Designer Linens and more
The Pioneer Linens family invites you to stop by the store anytime you are in the West Palm Beach area. See the latest bedding fashions, find the quality bath product you are looking for, and experience the individual service of knowledgeable personal shoppers who love luxury linens as much as you do.