Boro Park Snapshot: M. Bochner
Boro Park may have been taken over by large superstores and mega supermarkets, but at least one iconic oldster is more than holding its own against the Johnny-come-latelies.
M. Bochner, along with the neon lights twinkling its name and lighting up the corner of 16th Ave. and 50th Street, has adapted from its long ago humble beginnings as a small town grocer to become a neighborhood superstore.
“This was always a place of chesed and tzedakah,” Mrs. Baumwolspiner, the daughter of the store’s founder who currently works at the store as a family owned enterprise, declared to boropark24.com’s Heshy Rubinstein in an interview. “What my parents did from this place, nobody did.”
“He gave all the kids free nosh,” added a grandson of Mr. Bochner, Chaim Friedman, who manages the store.
Reb Moshe Bochner z”l married in his hometown of Kshanov, in Poland, and moved before the war as an ambitious young couple to the United States. The streets were supposedly paved with gold, but instead he proceeded to pave them with gold himself. He worked long hours to satisfy his growing circle of customers and slowly build up the brand.
The Bochners settled in the then-Jewish neighborhood of Brownsville in Brooklyn and opened a grocery in the 1940s. He moved to Boro Park in 1960, and seven years later arrived at its current prime location, overlooking a street where thousands of Yidden are hurrying to shul or yeshiva.
Mr. Bochner bought off two stores and combined them into one of Boro Park’s largest stores of the period. Its shelves and cabinets are filled with rows of dozens of cereals and snacks, fresh fruit and beverages. It has cups of specialty tropical salads alongside bags of the ancient sunflower seed snacks.
A devoted chassid of the Bobover rebbe, Mr. Bochner was niftar 37 years ago and Mrs. Baumwolspiner began helping her mother with running the store. Today, she and two grandchildren of Mr. Bochner — Chaim Friedman and his brother-in-law Yitzchok Spitzer — run it.
Having a store for so long means that the institutional memory runs deep. Chaim Friedman recalled the days before scanners and electronic registers, when orders had to be tallied by hand and all prices had to be memorized.
“You just had to either know it by heart or hope that there was a price on it,” Chaim recalled. “Not always was there. It’s much easier and much more efficient now. Definitely the way to go.”
The coronavirus has affected the store financially in various ways, some good, some bad.
“A lot of people who used to make their own orders stopped coming out of their houses,” Chaim said. “On the other hand, a lot of people who normally would go to the big stores now started coming here. I had some of my workers who were out sick, so we had less help and more work. A lot of things were out of stock and we couldn’t restock. Along with the fact that it was before Pesach, we just had long hours every day.”
Despite that, the Bochner brand went into full throttle.
“Every order went out the same day, with a friendly smile — especially for the elderly who couldn’t have their children visit,” Chaim said. “I was their only source of human contact.”
But M. Bochner was always more than a store, it was a chesed operation.
“He spoke to all the kids that came in — they all had good memories of him,” Mrs. Baumwolspiner recalled. “He was always changing checks for people, extending loans — he just did a lot of chesed.”