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.
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.