MENOMINEE FALLS, WI -- Joel Kleiman, founder of Pioneer Sales and Service here, died on April 27. He was 91.
A respected equipment distributor, Kleiman was recently hospitalized for heart problems. Although he never officially retired as Pioneer's president, Kleiman turned over the bulk of management responsibilities to his son, Jon, Pioneer's vice-president, several years ago. Industry veterans remember the Pioneer founder as a solid professional with a winning personality, and a man of unfailing integrity and goodwill.
Kleiman launched Pioneer in Milwaukee in 1962 following a successful decade as a senior executive at Automatic Canteen Corp., eventually heading its Rowe-AMi sales division. Sam Cooper, a colleague from Canteen, was his partner and vice-president of the dealership.
According to trade magazines of the era, Pioneer was immediately successful in landing a number of prestigious amusement lines, including pinball and novelty manufacturers such as Williams Manufacturing Co. (which became Williams Electronics in 1974), Bally and United, as well as the Irving Kaye table games line. Pioneer's Rowe jukebox line was Kleiman's former Canteen specialty.
Before the company's inaugural year was up, Pioneer expanded into vending sales, commencing with Rowe full-line machines and supporting its vending sales business with weeklong service schools for area operators.
Kleiman earned a business degree from New York University before serving in the U.S. Air Force as a bomber pilot during World War II.
In addition to Jon, Kleiman is survived by his wife Dolores and daughter Claire.