October 26, 2014

Founder of Pinny Food Center will be remembered by many for his dedication

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PINCONNING — Robert Martin Hornacek, the founder of Pinny Food Center in Pinconning, will be remembered by friends and family for his contributions to the community and his dedication to the grocery business.

Hornacek died Feb. 9, and a memorial service was held Feb. 12.

He founded Pinny Food Center in 1971 after an IGA in Pinconning burned down and the owner chose to not rebuild.

“He just loved the business and loved people,” Hornacek’s son, Tom, said.

Outside of Pinny Food Center, Hornacek gave back to the community in many ways, most of which he tried to keep from being recognized for.

Hornacek was a member of the Lion’s Club, gave a tremendous amount to the Methodist Church, food pantry and schools and was also very involved with the Chamber of Commerce, Tom said.

“He never wanted any recognition for it,” Hornacek’s other son, Mart, said.

Tom said Hornacek always donated boxes of food to 100 families for Christmas. He was also instrumental in the Peer Assistance Learning program in the Pinconning Schools, Mart said.

Both Tom and Mart grew up in the grocery business, starting their work with their father as young as 5 years old.

“We worked whether we wanted to or not,” Tom said.

They cleaned bathrooms and stocked shelves and eventually moved up into different areas of the store as they got older, Tom said.

“He had very high expectations of us, but we’re very thankful he did that,” Tom said.

“He always said, ‘Put your profits back into your business, and your business will take care of you,” Mart said.

Other employees of Pinny Food Center also remember Hornacek for his work.

Gene Dorian, one of the store directors, started working for Pinny Food Center as a teenager about 33 years ago.

“He always wanted to make sure the customer was taken care of,” Dorian said.

Dorian also said that Hornacek was always fair and expected a good job out of everyone.

Another store director, Ron Offenbecker, said he enjoyed working for Hornacek.

“He was a great teacher in this business,” Offenbecker said.

Offenbecker said Hornacek always let employees know when they were doing a good job, but he could also be firm when correcting people on their mistakes.

He added that Hornacek was a good storyteller, and he can recall one story in particular that Hornacek liked to share with others.

More than 40 years ago, before Hornacek started PFC, he owned a store in Flint and hired a circus to perform in the store’s parking lot to attract customers, Offenbecker said.

Hornacek’s retirement was a gradual process that occurred about 20-25 years ago, but he never truly stopped working.

As he and his wife, Verna, traveled across the country in their motor home, Hornacek was always keeping some business in mind.

“You could plan on getting an 8 1/2-by-11 envelope every week full of ads and ideas from other stores,” Mart said.

Hornacek was born April 3, 1926, in West Mayfield, Pa. When he was 14 years old, they moved to Alma, where he had to learn to speak English since Czech was the language spoken at home.

“We looked at some of his first report cards, and I said, ‘Dad, I can’t believe some of your grades when you first got here!’” Tom said.

Hornacek played football during his high schools days and his 6-foot-3-inch, 250-pound stature gained him the nickname “Jumbo.” The rest of the team also matched up to his physical size, and they were the biggest high school football line one year, even bigger than the Detroit Lions, Tom said.

Tom said Hornacek wanted to be a coach, but after spending time cutting meat during college, he decided that he had a better chance in the grocery business than coaching.

He eventually owned his first store in Alma called Bob’s IGA, and in 1961, he moved to the Flint area and opened Beecher Plaza IGA.

A fire that destroyed a Pinconning IGA led the family to move to Pinconning, and Hornacek and his family have been in the area ever since.

Hornacek spent the last 35 years with a disease called myasthenia gravis, and doctors told him he could have anywhere from one year to 10 or 15 years to live, Tom said.

Nothing slowed down Hornacek. Mart said his father always said, “Work hard when you work; play hard when you play.”

Offenbecker said that Hornacek was in the store just weeks before his death, letting them know that the bread rack looked a little shabby.

“He was always passionate, even until the end,” Offenbecker said.

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