On July 9th our community lost an invaluable business leader in Manuel Franquinaha
who came to Williamsburg to deliver great customer service and succeeded beyond his young expectations. However in the end he helped shape the character of the community he served and left an iconic imprint of his landmark retail store. Manny, as he was known to customers and friends first came to Williamsburg in 1962 when he opened Crest Hardware store with his brother.
“When Crest’s doors opened for the first time he opened them TO ALL. Man, woman, black, white, brown, blue collar, white collar, artists, contractors… you name it. Manny had a way of making people feel at home, whether it was their first or 101st time entering the store,” said his son Joseph Franquinha in his eulogy.
“Manny and his brother Joseph came to Williamsburg when so many were fleeing the neighborhood and population was in decline. It did not deter the intrepid brothers who continued to provide fist rate service and continuously invested in the store, the neighborhood while growing their business,” said Michael Rochford, Exec. Director of St. Nicks Alliance who worked closely with Manny to organized business, launch a revitalization effort and stimulate new business startup.
The revitalization effort led to investment in façade improvements and distinctive art made from of all things Styrofoam. Indeed today the trademark hammer continues to hang outside of Crest Hardware. This sign was recollected by Terry Baranoff, the daughter of the artist Stanley Wisenwolski, at a recent show of her father’s work organized by Karen Hudes at the Brooklyn Reliquary, which included the Crest sign
Manny’s commitment to the community was demonstrated by his engagement with community organizations like St. Nicks Alliance; where he served on the board of directors and was an active business leader. In recent years he hosted fundraisers in Crest’s garden for the School Settlement Association, an after-school program sponsored by St. Nick’s Alliance. In addition he was a sponsor of PS 132’s annual Kite Festival. His commitment to civic leader was shared by his wife Cathy Franquinaha the catalyst behind the Ready Sett Dance a phenomenal fundraising event to help build a new home for School Settlement.
Manny would tell his son, “Joseph, we’re in the business of customers.”
Joseph revealed that it took him some time to see that, “what he was really saying was that it’s about the person, not the transaction. He understood the importance of money, but never let it overshadow the importance of being a good person. Helping someone and providing them with quality service & care were more important than the monetary value of their presence.”
Manny’s outlook built trust and an eternally loyal customer base, which reflected the diversity of community life; business owners, contractors, homeowners, and renters have flocked to Crest for over 50 years. These devoted customers enabled Crest to grow in the face of competition from the Home Depot and other mega stores. When artists moved to Williamsburg, Manny’s enlightened insight led him to sponsor Crest Fest an innovative annual art show that celebrates local artists and hardware and is a home grown spectacular community event. Manny’s ability to adapt to his customer interests helped fuel the stores continued innovation and growth.
Not long also Manny and his son Joseph introduced Gardening Department behind the store which has been a wild success. Crest is a weekend destination stop for greening or perhaps just the place to take the kids to see the resident pot belly pig or match wits with the Crest’s myna bird. It is always fun.
Manny never wavered in his beliefs about how people should be treated with respect and dignity. Even the smallest act of kindness from Manny brought forth an enduring relationship with his employees, customers, sales representatives, neighbors, friends, and family.
Finishing his father’s eulogy, Joseph said, “May we all learn from my father and take with us some of his most important values. Constantly strive to move forward with the times and be welcoming to change. Keep a positive outlook and an open mind. And ‘drive like everyone else is crazy’.”
Manuel Franquinha is survived by his sister Zita, his brother Al, his wife Cathy, his four children: Doreen, Donna, Joseph, Amanda, and five grandchildren.