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Queens Chronicle

The immigrant behind the once-huge Bohack chain

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Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2018 10:30 am

Henry Christian Bohack was born on June 15, 1865 in Hanover, Germany. Upon immigrating to the United States in 1882 he opened up his first grocery store at 1291 Broadway in Brooklyn in 1887. On May 24, 1889 he married Emma Augusta Steffens, also a German immigrant.

He was so successful he opened up gas stations and restaurants that didn’t close until the Great Depression. Even then, the supermarkets continued to thrive.

Henry and Emma lived in a big house at 50 (now 83-04) Beverly Road in Kew Gardens, with a female live-in cook and servant. He died of a heart attack at age 66 on Sept. 17, 1931. By then, his chain had 3,000 employees working for it throughout 740 stores.

At the time of his death, Bohack’s business was estimated to be worth $40 million a year; he had a personal wealth of $10 million according his obituary. He was buried at Lutheran All Faith cemetery in Middle Village. His wife followed him there on Sept. 21, 1961.

Bohack family members continued and grew the business. The then-state-of-the-art supermarket shown here on Fresh Pond Road by 60th Drive was built in 1955 on a 90-by-200-foot plot.

After Bohack heirs let the company go public in 1965 and started buying up Daitch Shopwell supermarkets, debt and mismanagement led to the stages of bankruptcy. The supermarket chain shut its stores down completely in 1977.

Bohack is forever enshrined in pop culture history in the movie “The Odd Couple.” Members of its founder’s family and relatives of his are still alive and well in Queens and on Long Island.

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