Since 1994, Pancho’s Cantina has been serving the Island Park community as space to gather, eat and celebrate. The Mexican food eatery has seen a number of transitions, including recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
And on Oct. 20, the Island Park Chamber of Commerce recognized the owners of the venerable establishment, Helene and Gary Steiner, as Businesspeople of the Year at the 33rd Annual Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce Businessperson of the Year and Legislative Breakfast.
“In our community, it’s one of the stalwarts,” Island Park Chamber President Michael Scully said of Pancho’s. “It’s been around a long time.”
Founding brothers Stephen and Gary Steiner opened Pancho’s original location in Cedarhurst in the 70s. And in 1987, Gary and his wife Helene took the business to Oceanside. Needing more space, in 1994 Pancho’s moved again to Island Park.
Consistency, Gary Steiner said has been his guiding philosophy at the restaurant. “You know what you’ll get,” he explained. “People know what to expect.”
The restaurant has grown a large following over the years, and is capable of hosting multiple parties simultaneously. Additionally, he and Helene can often be seen working the business themselves.
“They’re have a very hands-on ownership,” Scully said. “When you go there, you get that local feel.”
The Steiners’ consistency was tested, however, when Hurricane Sandy badly damaged the establishment five years ago. The restaurant’s employees worked around the clock to rebuild, and after seven months Pancho’s emerged reborn.
Now, fellow business owners are recognizing their work and contributions to the community. After years of involvement with the local chamber Gary said, “It’s an honor to be selected by our peers in the neighborhood.”