Book about Prinster brothers timed to debut with sculpture unveiling
WHAT: Book-signing of by Anthony Prinster and Kate Ruland-Thorne
WHEN: 2-4 p.m. Sat., Oct. 19
WHERE: Grand Valley Books, 350 Main St.
Tony Prinster remembers clearly the beginning of his career with City Market. He was 11, and headed out to the ice-skating pond when his father, who had come home for lunch, called his son’s name. It was a Saturday in December, approaching Christmas and the store was busy.
Tony was needed at the grocery to collect carts and bag groceries.
“That was the start of my career,” Prinster, 72, said.
Prinster, along with Katie Ruland-Thorne, has written a book, “The History of City Market: The Brothers Four and the Colorado Back Slope Empire” about the business his grandfather and three great-uncles bought in 1924, and built into a successful family business.
Those four entrepreneurial Prinster brothers — Paul, Frank Sr., Leo and Clarence — are being immortalized today, Oct. 18, at 5 p.m. with the unveiling of a new Historic Sculptures Legends installation at 200 S. Spruce St., a former City Market warehouse site. (Tony’s grandfather was Frank Sr.)
“They bought an existing business from Adam Booker who had a little shop called City Market,” said Prinster, who will sign copies of the book, along with co-author Ruland-Thorne at Grand Valley Books, 350 Main St., Saturday, Oct. 19, from 2-4 p.m.
City Market stores expanded throughout the region and was the first grocery in Grand Junction to launch a “self-serve” market where customers themselves could choose items from shelves, as opposed to asking for goods from behind the counter as was the custom at the time.
The story begins with Prinster’s great-grandfather Joseph who was born in what was then Austria (now a part of Italy).
“Two things moved me to write the book,” Prinster said. “When I worked in the business as the CEO for 13 years, I was impressed with what my ancestors had done,” in building a successful business.
“Then I had an opportunity to travel to where my great-grandfather was from,” to learn more about his “very humble beginnings. I realized what he had accomplished as an immigrant — that’s what motivated me.”
The second son of 11 children growing up on a tiny farm, Joseph Prinster left Europe to find his fortune in America.
Prinster found details for his book by consulting La Junta (where the family settled before coming to Grand Junction in 1924) newspaper archives and Otero County courthouse archives; he conducted Internet record research and studied early ship records to find more information about his great-grandfather’s journey across the ocean.
“I did uncover a number of surprising things and events about people I hadn’t known before,” Prinster said.
He began the book with an outline and plan, but “as it progressed the book took a course and life of its own,” Prinster said.
He spent years trying to track down how his great-grandfather came to the U.S. He eventually came across a ship record and was able to piece together from facts he knew (such as his grandfather, then 18, did not speak English and he had no money) what ship he traveled and arrived on in 1873.
The book is full of historical photos, most of them from family files, Prinster said.
Grand Valley Books owner Margie Wilson said she “really enjoyed the book” which she described as both a story about business and about family.
“It’s about a growing business in America set against events going on locally and in the country,” Wilson said.
“The Prinster family hung tough — they helped customers during tough times by offering credit. We were coming out of the Depression. They developed a customer base by treating people well.”
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