FOOD & BEVERAGE: The Pines Pantry, a Happy Place and Family Tradition

Emma & Hannah Schrader
Twin sisters Emma and Hannah Schrader of the Pines Pantry.
Photo by Mike Borowski.

A young visitor to Fire Island Pines, shopping at Pines Pantry, might not realize that the woman behind the deli counter is also co-owner of the grocery store itself. Meet Laurie Schrader: the hardworking mom, co-proprietor and community favorite.


Laurie and her husband, Eric Schrader, have owned and operated “The Pantry” for 35 years. But their love story is one that stretches back even further, between two teens from Sayville, working summer jobs in the Pines in the late 1970s.


Pines Pantry is celebrating 50 years of operation – no small feat for a seasonal operation on a barrier island. Established in 1953 as the Ship N Shore, the store was rechristened Pines Pantry in 1974 by new owners Myron Tucker and Jack Rohlfing. Eric got a job there as a stock boy in the summer of 1978. Laurie (then Schuhmann) followed in 1979 as a cashier. But even though Eric and Laurie grew up just a few blocks from each other in Sayville, incredibly, they only first crossed paths working together at the store.


The two became fast friends, and fell in love.


“Myron and Jack were very good to us,” says Laurie. “They were our mentors and taught us everything we know.”


When the men were looking to sell, and prospective buyers kept falling through, Jack dropped an unexpected question on Eric.


“You want to buy a grocery store?” Just like that.


Laurie had started to pursue a career in nursing, but Eric and the store kept pulling her back.

“He told me, ‘I thought we’d have a mom-and-pop grocery store.’ We were in love, so I threw it all to the wind!”  They took their life savings and put it all into buying the store in January 1989.


They got married in 1992 and raised their twins Emma and Hannah, born in 1997.


Eric was constantly modernizing the business from the tech end. From computerizing operations to starting the wi-fi service TPP Wireless and launching the popular Pantry Cam, which has offered a livestream of beautiful Pines Harbor 24/7 since 1998.


The family business extends to the family the Schraders have cultivated: their trusted employees, especially the five managers, which includes their two daughters. Their managerial counterparts have been part of the family for decades: front-end manager Kim VanEssendeft since 1994, and back-end manager John Klein since 1999.



In a wider context, this story is also one between the Schraders and the Pines community. In both the good times, and the challenging ones: the AIDS crisis that decimated the Gay population, COVID grinding in-person shopping to a halt and storm events preventing deliveries from the mainland. Throughout it all, however, they’ve continued to provide an essential service. This includes constant improvements to the store, including the handsome new bakery and espresso bar, as well as bringing in a new chef to provide gourmet-level, ready-to-go prepared dinners.


At a time when people are shopping more and more online, the Pantry remains a hub and gathering ground.


And now the family legacy will be extending with the sisters. Emma and Hannah have known the store their whole life, including working summers in high school. But it was important to their parents that the girls went to college.


“Neither Eric or I have a four-year degree,” explained Laurie. Hannah earned her master’s in information and library science from Clarion University, while Emma got her a BA in biology from Roger Williams University. Still, they returned to the family store as managers, taking over the store’s online and social media presence. They’ve both decided they want to keep the business in the family.


The family tradition at Pines Pantry will continue.


“This is where we raised our girls,” says Laurie. “We love it here and this is why we come back every year.”

Laurie and Eric Schrader in front of the Pines Pantry in 1981.Contributed by the Schrader family.
Delectable treats at the Bakery & Espresso bar.Photo by Mike Borowski.
Mouth-watering prepared foods too!Photo by Mike Borowski.