Van Nest Auto Parts receives Empire Business Award

Van Nest Auto Parts owners Frank and Peggy Pestone and their son Craig receive the Empire business Award from state Sen. Gustavo Rivera.
Photos Jason Cohen

A fourth-generation family business, Van Nest Auto Parts has been a staple in the Morris Park and Van Nest neighborhoods for almost a century.

On July 26, New York State Sen. Gustavo Rivera recognized owners Frank Pestone and his wife Peggy for their success with the NY State Empire Business Award. The award is given to a business that is a leader in their industry, promotes economic growth and positively impacts the community.

The Morris Park Business Improvement District nominated Van Nest Auto Parts, located at 1765 Bronxdale Ave., for the award.

Van Nest Auto Parts, which has been in business nearly a century, received an award on July 26, 2021.

“I was surprised,” Pestone told the Bronx Times. “I knew they gave such an award, but I didn’t know I would be picked.”

Pestone, 81, was born and raised in the house next to the auto parts store. Working at the store — started by his grandfather who he idolized — was all he ever knew.

“He was a tough good man, but I learned a lot from him,” Pestone said. “Now that I have grandchildren, I know how to be with them. He always had time to do something with me.”

According to Pestone, his dad and grandfather always treated people with respect, were kind and made sure clients continued to feel welcome. It was these traits that were passed onto him, that he has also ingrained in his son Craig, who will also take over the reins eventually.

Pestone became a full-time owner in his mid-30s when his dad had a heart attack and stepped away from the business.

Since then, he has continued to follow in the footsteps of both his dad and grandfather.

According to Pestone, Van Nest Auto Parts not only offers good deals, but hire from within the community and financially support local organizations like the Van Nest Baseball Little League, which they have done every year since 1969.

Additionally, Pestone is a founding member of the Morris Park Business Improvement District (MPBID), and donates toys and food to the Our Lady of Solace Church, located at 731 Morris Park Ave.

“It’s been a good life,” he said. “I’ve worked hard, but I didn’t mind working hard.”

Pestone, who owns the building of the auto part store as well as the former home of Van Nest Lanes across the street, stayed in Morris Park until his 40s.

Today, he lives in Connecticut in close proximity to his son Craig and his grandchildren. But he still maintains deep roots to the community. To this day, his wife still shops at the same local butcher and supermarket and Pestone goes to the same barber and doctor in the area.

He said his toughest time as an owner was this past year during the pandemic. While the store was busy at points, Pestone contracted COVID-19 and spent 11 days in the hospital. “COVID was probably the most devastating because you saw so many businesses around here closed up,” he said.

Having been open for nearly a century isn’t really something that has crossed Pestone’s mind. primarily, he focuses his attention on two things: family and the business.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen in life,” he said. “I think [other businesses] didn’t have the success I had because they didn’t have the ability or luck and that I can have a son to come in here and takeover. If you’re lucky to get a few good people who work with you, take care of them.”

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