Freddy’s Feed and Read (1972-1998)

Located at 1221 Helen Avenue, a block from the University of Montana, Freddy’s Feed and Read opened in 1972.  The little Marxist bookstore was initiated by a group of four local radicals, university figures, one of whom put up $25,000 cash and all of whom contributed sweat equity.  They called themselves collectively Our Gang, Inc.  Jan Konigsberg, one of the original four founders, informs us that the group bought Mrs. Olsen’s “University Grocery” store, renamed it Freddy’s Feed and Read and were the first area market to carry organic items. About a year and a half later, they were able to open the “Read” part of the store, a bookstore, in the other half of the building. In later years a mostly vegetarian restaurant was added.  Margaret Ambrose-Barton, a renowned local pastry chef got her first job there in 1991 and stayed until the store closed.  Fred Rice, a D.J. for KUFM, who now lives in Helena, was the manager of the place for many years. (Contrary to rumor, the store was neither named for Fred Rice nor for Fat Freddy of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers although, according to Jan, Linda Helding may have had the latter in the back of her mind when she blurted out Freddy’s Feed and Read during an hours long meeting to decide the name.) The last owner was Mark Watkins.  Freddy’s had been struggling for a long time, but the final straw was the opening of a Barnes & Noble chain store in Missoula.  All in all, Freddy’s lasted twenty-six years, finally closing in 1998.

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After the demise of Freddy’s, a permit to put in a pizza parlor was denied.  It turns out the property was zoned residential, and Freddy’s had been in violation of the zoning ordinance for its entire existence.  Evidently a waiver was later granted, as the next tenant at 1221 Helen Avenue was Quarter Moon Books, which was succeeded by the Bear’s Brew Coffee House, and then shared by the Java U coffee house and the Secret Seconds thrift store.  Today it is the home of the Buttercup Market and Cafe.

6 thoughts on “Freddy’s Feed and Read (1972-1998)

  1. My cousin Alan Wittenberg would frequently tell me he was going to Freddies Feed and Read. I assumed it was a mythical place created our of cynicism to not the odd juxtaposition of a feed store and hippie book palace. It was not until years later I found out it was an actual establishment.

    • I lived just blocks from Freddies as a teen in the ’80s. I used to stop in for an amazing chocolate chip cookie, brownie or maybe a book. Great memory.

      • Freddie’s was the center of the universe from 1980 to 1985. And the soundtrack to that experience was scored by Martha and the Muffins. It was a great time to be in Missoula, and a great time to be alive, generally — Reagan’s presidency notwithstanding.

  2. I grew up in the neighborhood and Freddie’s was definitely a place that we hung out at spit to buy penny candy or a soda.Friends of our family used to live upstairs and we hung out there a lot when we were kids, Alan and Jerri Carmichael and their two kids Casey and Gary, lived there.Alan was a archeologist at U of M and Jerri was a stay at home mother; my Family lived in a house on university avenue and Higgins/105 university.My father; Dennis J. Sale; worked in Main Hall on the U of M campus for many years in Information Services; and Alan and my Dad met over in Bozeman in the mid 1960’s…..Great stories and fond memories of the neighborhood; these serve as reminders to me of a place (missoula) that was and still is a place I call home.

  3. Four of us started Freddy’s (not Freddie’s): me (Jan Konigsberg); Chris Boyd; David Polovin and Linda Helding. We bought Mrs. Olson’s grocery store, which occupied about 1/2 of the ground floor of the 1221 Helena Ave building. The other half of the ground floor had been Mrs. Olson’s husband’s watch repair shop, but after he had passed away, she operated only the grocery store. We rented the entire ground floor and the basement. We converted what had been the watch repair space into the bookstore. The bookstore did not open until about a year and a half after we bought the grocery store. It was one of the first, if not the first, grocery stores in Missoula to sell organically grown items, albeit most of items were not organic. And for the first few years of operation, it was the grocery store that kept our cash flow flowing!

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