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Linens 'Pioneer' Greenberg Dies

George Greenberg, the second generation owner of Pioneer Linens — this city's oldest business — died last month. He was 92.

Although semi-retired, Greenberg remained active in the business to the end of his life and recently gave a newspaper interview (HTT, Aug. 13, 2007, page 1), along with his daughter and grandson, about the upscale retail store's future, well into its fourth generation. He envisioned further growth into the internet.

He was known affectionately as the "Mayor of Clematis Street," because of his longevity and constant engagement in civic affairs.

Over the decades, Greenberg was involved in numerous endeavors; he co-founded the Downtown Development Authority in 1967, and in 1996 was named its first Business Leader of the Year.

When businesses in downtown West Palm Beach were battered by the merchant flight to regional shopping malls in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, Greenberg stood fast, refusing to follow.

Born in Lake Worth, Fla. in 1915, he began working in his father, Max's, hardware store at the age of eight. Pioneer Hardware evolved into Pioneer Linens and moved from Lake Worth to West Palm Beach after the hurricane of 1926 destroyed the store.

Along with his involvement in the family merchant business, George Greenberg earned a law degree from the University of Florida and was a member of the Florida Bar for more than 50 years, despite never having the intent to practice law.

"I had always been intrigued with the merchandising and it was an active business — I liked it," Greenberg told his grandson Alan Murphy Jr., in an interview for a school term paper several years ago. "My dad had a heart attack while I was in the army so my mom took over," Greenberg said, recalling, "I was 16 when I was first left alone to run things."

Greenberg's wife of 51 years, Lois, predeceased him in 1998. He is survived by his daughter, Penny Murphy, his son, George Greenberg and six grandchildren. The family has requested donations to be made in his name to the Historical Society of Palm Beach County, the Norton Museum of Art, and the Race for the Cure.

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