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Market Values

Another generation preserves traditions of quality and service

May 22, 2011
By AMANDA WHISTLE , The Leader Herald

A 1938 advertisement in The Morning Herald for Bowman's Market in Gloversville touts loose pork sausage at 19 cents per pound and a solid roast veal for 29 cents per pound. Atop the ad is a promise: free delivery.

While times and prices have changed at the East Pine Street market - and ownership changed hands when the Bowman family sold the business to a young Jim Franco in 1950 - the market still offers that nostalgic hometown feel that often seems lost in today's supermarket rush.

For instance, the promise of free delivery still stands, and the passion Franco showed for his business still thrives in his son John, and grandson Edward.

Article Photos

John Franco, above, bought Bowman’s Market from his father, Jim, about 15 years ago.

The Leader-Herald/Amanda Whistle

As the business spans generations, so does its customer base.

Diana Marshall remembers when her mother-in-law took her to Bowman's 30 years ago.

"She walked me in and introduced me to his [John's] dad and to him [Jim] and said, 'This is the place to buy your meat' and that was that," Marshall said.

Since then, Marshall has been a regular customer, picking up orders several times a week. On Saturdays when Marshall oversees a class at her business, the Gloversville Sewing Center, she'll phone in her order, and Bowman's will deliver if she's not able to pick it up before closing time.

"They treat everybody with respect. You go in there and they're very polite and people may wait in line - it's very small - but everybody gets a 'hi, how are you,'" Marshall said.

That kind of hospitality and dedication is the family secret to success, says John and his son Edward - that and a lot of hard work and fresh meat.

"A lot of our customers have become our friends. The trick is to make more friends than enemies," John joked.

On the glass windows are signs boasting 'The best hamburg around,' - a claim to which Marshall agrees - and Ed's "world-famous ham salad," which earned that title after leather company officials came to the store to buy some ham salad to bring back to Europe, John said.

About 20 years ago Bowman's added meat platters and fresh fruit baskets to its services.

Encased in glass inside the market is the market-made sausage, stuffed pork, stuffed peppers, steaks of all cuts and sizes, poultry and hand-made meatballs.

All that is in addition to the dry goods and the fresh produce- purchased locally when in season -not to mention the seafood.

"Treat people like you want to be treated," John says. "Our customers always become our friends."

John's father, Jim, began working at Bowman's when he was 11 years old. He served in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1942 to 1946, which marked the only four years he didn't work at the market.

He and his wife, Lucy, were married 67 years. Lucy kept detailed handwritten books for the market until the age of 90, and though John, 67, bought the market about 15 years ago, Jim worked there until 2008. Edward, 43, became a partner in the business in 2009.

Lucy Franco died last summer, and Jim followed her 12 days later. For family, friends and customers alike, the couple is missed.

Today, Bowman's has four employees, along with John's wife, Patricia, who works there part time.

Driver Paul Hawver has been a familiar face for the past 17 years, bringing deliveries to the market's client base, which includes several restaurants.

"Our home delivery is still free and it will be as long as we can do it," John said.

Mayor Dayton King awarded Bowman's with the city's Enduring Business award this year. King created the award last year to be given to a "family business that has been here in this city and continued to have success passed down through the generations."

King said he developed the award "to highlight the positive community, family and community values" in the city. Castiglione Jewelers won the award last year.

"Many of these people could have gone somewhere else and could have been more successful, but instead they chose to keep their roots here in the city," King said.

Amanda Whistle covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at



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