It could be the end of an Eagle.
Eagle Provisions, a Polish grocery store that has served Greenwood Heights for 75 years, is up for sale, but its demise is not assured just yet. The recent decision to put the three-story building at Fifth Avenue and 18th Street on the market for a reported $9 million came from one owner over the objection of the other, according to the pair of proprietors.
“I just can’t do this forever,” said John Zawisny, who put the store up for sale and is the elder of the two brothers who bought it back in 1979. “It’s time for me to retire.”
Richard Zawisny, on the other hand, wants to keep the enterprise alive and churning out kielbasa, and is fishing for investors to help make that happen.
“I’m looking for some partners to go in with me,” he said. “We’re in with the neighborhood, and we want to stay.”
News of the possible closure comes less than two months after this paper urged readers to patronize the store as part of its ongoing “Go There Now” series profiling longtime neighborhood institutions.
The top two floors of the Eagle Provisions building have been vacant since a 1966 fire. Current zoning allows for a residential building as tall as four stories with ground-level retail to be built on the spot.
The store first opened in 1939 as White Eagle Market, and the Zawisnys’ father worked there for 18 years. It was their father’s dream to have a business in the family and, after learning the grocery trade at Pathmark, the Zawisny brothers decided to go in on the shop.
The brothers tweaked the store’s inventory to try to keep up with changing tastes as the neighborhood’s Polish community shrank. Figuring drink is universal, they expanded the beer selection to an astronomical 2,500 varieties. Nevertheless, the store has struggled in recent years, according to the brothers.
“We’ve adapted as much as we could,” John Zawisny said. “But there’s only so much you can do.”
Richard Zawisny, who handles the deli, keeping it stocked with fresh hot dogs, kielbasa, and potato pancakes of his own making, said the city has been making it increasingly difficult to stay afloat. He cites property taxes, fees from the neighborhood business improvement district, and fines from consumer affairs.
“The city is making it impossible for small businesses,” he said. “They’re killing us.”
The elder Zawisny said he would hate to see the store close, but he has had health problems and wants to spend more time with his family.
“If someone wants to buy it and keep the store open that’s great. I’d love that,” he said. “I just can’t do this six days a week anymore.”