Menu Filter

92 Year Old Freda Hirsch’s Market – A Treat in Phoenixville PA! Phoenixville, PA

Posted on: April 11, 2010



Update February 25, 2016 – We are sad to report that Freda Hirsch has passed away peacefully, just a few days shy of her 98th birthday. 🙁

Update: June 20, 2010 we learned that the decision was made to close Freda’s store permanently, and she will be moving to an assisted living community.
While you can’t visit Freda’s anymore, use this as a reminder that nothing, and none of us, lasts forever, and visit a cool old vintage and retro business that you like in your area. It may not be there forever :-(.

On one of our first dog walks after we moved to Phoenixville we passed a curious little house with a storefront nestled in with the rest of the residential houses on Washington Avenue.
Not sure if it was open or not, and a bit wary of what we may find inside if it was, it was with great relief that we were told that the store was open and run by a sweet lady, Freda Hirsch.

Hirsch's Market Washington Street

This has been one of my very favorite places in all of Phoenixville and I make a point to take visitors here to meet Freda, see her cute little neighborhood store, and support one of the last vestiges of old time Phoenixville that remain. With Freda being 92 years old and still opening the store every day, I breathe a sigh of relief whenever we walk past and see her open sign.
Hirsch's Market Window

Or one of the many signs she’ll put up during the day to inform customers about her whereabouts.

Voting

I’ve been meaning to write about Hirsch’s market for forever, and have even asked Freda throughout the years if I could snap a few photos inside. She’s always amenable to the idea but knowing I only have my little point and shoot camera I wasn’t sure if I could do the interior justice. I often do snap some photos of the exterior as we walk the RetroRoaddog by.

Hirsch's Market - A Treat( that bare spot in the upper left is from all the notes Freda thumbtacks up)

This past week I was glad to see that another Phoenixville resident and Retro Roadmap Contributor Clint Weiler of OneNineFourSixZero.com had also seen the beauty of Freda’s store. When he happily agreed to allow me to reprint his writeup here, I knew this was my excuse to snap the photos I’d wanted to, and hope for the best.

Before I turn you over to Clint’s words and my photos, I have 2 quick things to mention:

1. It was sad to hear that many of Freda’s suppliers no longer will work with her because the quantities she needs to order are so small. However the kind folks at Foresta’s Market on West Bridge Street will add on to their order anything that she needs, and that helps her keep items in stock. Because of this neighborly arrangement I’m definitely giving more of my business to Foresta’s – and maybe you will to? I will make sure to let them know how much I appreciate them helping Mrs. Hirsch out.  I can’t imagine the Acme just blocks away from Freda would help her out like this.

2. Freda told me that business is slow nowadays, and not like the olden times, which seemed to make her a bit sad knowing things will never be like they were. She’s 92 now, and we know she won’t be around forever, so wouldn’t it be nice to support her by buying whatever you can from her little shop? Granted we only picked up a roll of TP and some snacks today, but I’m making a commitment to buying at least $5-$10 worth of stuff from her per week. Join me, won’t you?

Once you read about Freda’s life and her store you’ll see why I have such a soft spot for her! she really is “A Treat” for us Phoenixville residents!

Freda Hirsch, The Legend

Hirsch’s Grocery – A Phoenixville Landmark

On February 28th, Freda Hirsch turned 92. Her store, Hirsch’s Grocery (147 Washington Ave), is truly a treasure of Phoenixville. Not only because it’s an instant throwback to simpler times, but mainly because of Freda.

On Easter morning, I stopped in to speak with Freda, who’s been the owner and operator of the store since 1951. As soon as I stepped in the door, she shared with me a greeting card that she received earlier that morning…

“As you know, I’m of the Jewish faith,” she said as she proceeded to read and show me the card. “What would the Easter rabbit be without his ‘T’?”

(she turns to me and smiles, shows me the front of the card with a drawing of a rabbit sitting at a table with a cup of tea)

“A Rabbi! I thought that was so cute,” she said as she laughed. ( you can see that card in my photo above! BL)

And that’s just the kind of thing that makes me love Freda and Hirsch’s Grocery so much. I usually stop in once a week for a bag of chips, a loaf of bread, or something like that. It’s a great place to pick up a few items and have a nice chat with a woman who’s experienced a lot, yet yearns for more.

Freda Hirsch's Market Store Phoenixville PA

Freda moved to Phoenixville when she was twelve years old. Her parents were bakers from Norristown who owned a wholesale bakery across from the Reading Station. Her father was particularly skilled at making rye bread and decided to move the business to the current location of Hirsch’s Grocery. They converted the house into a bakery and sold breads, donuts, pastries, etc.
Behind The Counter
Freda later attended art school and honed her passion for painting into a great skill. These days, she doesn’t paint quite as much, but she hopes to get back into it. Her son Chuck does a great job of preserving her artwork and sells framed reproductions here.
Artist Freda Hirsch(a poster of some of her prints that are available, we’ve got a couple in the Hacienda, ourselves!)


Freda recalls graduating from art school…

“I went looking for jobs, it was the 1940s… it wasn’t easy. During the summer I used to work down in Atlantic City as a beach artist, right there next to the steel pier. And that’s how I met my husband… My husband was a pitchman on the boardwalk.”

Freda’s husband ended up joining the war in Okinawa, but they got married immediately after he returned home. At first, they traveled alot, worked at the Jersey shore in the summer, but eventually they had a son, and not too long after that Freda’s twins were born…

God Bless Your Day Freda & Irv“My mother said, ‘Don’t you think you better settle down? You can’t be dragging them with you everywhere!’” Freda explained (with a big smile). “So my parents gave me the store. They were ready to give up. They were in their 70s, and here I am now at 92!”

Hirsch's Tableau

Her husband passed away in 1984 due to a heart attack, but Freda continued to run the store. “I just worked it by myself,” she said. “Everybody on the street has been marvelous to me. Now if I need help or I have to go somewhere, or something like that, they’ll take me. I go to the YMCA twice a week to do my exercise.”
Mrs Hirsch
When asked about what she likes best about her store, she cited the customers / conversation. “The young boys that used to buy candy now come in with their grandchildren,” laughed Freda. “They tell me where they used to live and what years they’d come in.”
Phoenixville Area High 1978 Footbal Schedule

Freda likes to cater to the children in the neighborhood so she carries a nice selection of penny candy, which is now two cents due to inflation.Thank You For The Candy She also has a snocone machine, which is one of her favorite features of the store. “I got that from an Italian lady over on the north side,” Freda explains.

Fleers

In addition, she makes hoagies to order and has a fine selection of deli meats and cheeses.

As for her health, Freda is generally well, but she does have some back issues that developed in her mid 80s. “I was fine up until I was 85 or 86. Then my back started to hurt me. I had everything done to it, except an operation. It’s not a pain, but it just aches.”

While her physical complications are minimal, her business operations have become more complicated due to the size of her store…
Hirsch's Market Interior

“My shelves were always very full, but business is different now,” Freda explained. “You see now, the big companies want so much money to come and deliver, or you have to buy so much quantity. I don’t need that much, so the other stores in town help me out. Foresta’s (1098 West Bridge St) gets me whatever I want on his order, this way I can just buy halves from him. He comes twice a week to deliver whatever I order through him. He’s very good to me.”
Tomatoes
Freda and Hirsch’s Grocery is the heart Phoenixville, not only by location, but also in spirit. New businesses are certainly welcomed, but supporting established entities is extremely important.

Share This!
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestEmail this to someone
  • Love, love, love this posting. Thank you for sharing Clint’s article and your point of view.

    We had our own “Freda” in the town where I grew up (though our special lady’s name was Myrtle). This was a few decades ago and she already had “stock” issues. I think the soda vendors still visited the store — but I believe her son bought the rest of her stock from one of the larger grocery stores.

    I have such fond memories of buying Pepsi and picking out a few pieces of candy with my friends (looking back, I’m sure she sold the candy at a loss). I wonder if Myrtle knew she was providing memories that we kids would cherish years later? I’m pretty sure she’s no longer with us (she was in her late 80s then, according to my mother). But I still smile and think of Myrtle when I see little shops like Freda’s … or on the odd occasion when I see “root beer barrel” candy (my penny candy of choice)

    • Wendyvee I love your story! So glad you liked our Freda!

      • Great, great story Beth! Wish I had discovered your story and Freda long ago!

        mel

  • Great introduction, additional viewpoints, and photos… Awesome photos actually!

    • Clint- thanks for the kind words on the photos AND for the kick in the pants to get Freda onto the Retro Roadmap. I feel such a sense of accomplishment now, having crossed a 5 year old item off my “to-do” list!

  • Lovely, lovely story! I only wish she were close enough for me to shop there!

    • Richard, I’m sure she’d be smitten with your accent- if you’re ever in the area I’ll make sure to introduce you!

  • dinerhotline

    kudos Retro Road Lady! I hope this does bring business and customers to Freda Hirsch’s Grocery Store. My dad had a small Meat Market when I was growing up. I worked there from the age of 12 to almost 17.

  • Susan

    Beth, I loved reading about Freda and the pictures are also wonderful! It would be worth visiting Phoenixville just to meet her.

  • Mike Pilotti

    Great story and photos! Thank you for posting this! We found Freda a few years ago when our boys were little and we lived in Phoenixville. The boys are now teenagers and they still love to go there. Where else can you still find penny candy, even if most of it is a nickel? ans she’s so nice to talk to! We have a tradition to always go there on the last day of school and although we moved from the area a year ago, we went there today (June 18, last day of school) and there was a sign that said “Sorry, we are closed.” We hope Freda is OK!

    • Mike- thanks for sharing your memories of Freda and her store – how cool that it’s become part of your family history as well! I’ll check up on Freda when we return to Phoenixville, hopefully she was just posting one of her many hand-written signs and that she’s still as spry and chipper as ever!

  • Pingback: Heart- Breaking News – Freda Hirsch’s Store in Phoenixville Closed « Retro Roadmap()

  • Janice HIrsch

    Reading this brings back so many memories of my dear sister-in-law Freda. Susan, Stephen, and I will never forget the love and close family feelings on our visits to the famous family store. We love you.

  • Hi there, i just wanted to drop you a line to say that i thoroughly enjoyed this particular post of yours, I have subscribed to your RSS feeds and have skimmed a few of your posts before but this one really stood out for me. I know that I am just a stranger to you but I figured you might appreciate the appreciation 🙂 – Take care – and keep blogging.

  • Pingback: Sad Day In Phoenixville, PA – Freda Hirsch’s Store For Sale | Retro Roadmap()

  • wendy b.

    Thank you for this post. I was lucky enough to grow up with great memories of going to ‘Fredas market’ as I had always called it in the 70’s. I always loved picking out my candy and getting sno cones in the summer! I’m from the area, and remember when the steel mill closed and I am so happy to see Phoenixville as a thriving town again!
    I was lucky enough to visit Fredas’ a few years ago as the market was on Phoenixvilles’ holiday house tour! I too have a signed print of a painting she made of the market, a gift from my mom,and I love it!
    Sorry to hear of the store closing. It will be missed by all the children who won’t get to experience the uniqueness of this local little store ran by its kind owner!

    • Wendy B = that’s so cool you have fond memories of Freda’s store from your childhood! I have quite fond memories from our short time in town, and I’m so glad I got to experience the store and meet with Freda before they closed it on her.

      Bummed to report that the house has been sold and is now just a residence. They actually had the big glass front window removed and I was SO TEMPTED to take it back to our place, but Retro Roadhusband didn’t think that was a good idea. I’m still kinda kicking myself for not getting it, but at least I have the pictures.

      Thanks for stopping by Retro Roadmap!

  • Wonderful photographs of Freda’s store in Phoenixville. I am an admin for the facebook group page titled, “you know your from Phoenixville when…. We share memories of Phoenixville’s past. I was wondering if I may share the photo of Freda’s store front with our group if I state credits to Retro Roadmap and copyrighted ? Thanks so much and I enjoyed looking at your pictures so much. Can you e-mail me with your decision? Warm regards, Rich Devaney

//