Farewell, old friend

Farewell, old friend

After 97 years, a treasured neighbor closes its doors

  • Posted on: 16 September 2019
  • By: bevmire

Last week was full of sad goodbyes.

After 97 years in business, Fresh Pond Market on Huron Ave. closed. FPM was a throwback to the time when you knew your store owners by name, knew the butcher would grind your hamburger just right, and knew that if you needed help carrying your bags someone would cheerfully do it for you.

I was a relative newbie to the neighborhood when I started shopping at FPM. Like true New Englanders, it took a while for the store folks to acknowledge me farther than hello, but once it was clear I was going to be a regular we were all smiles and how’ve you been, what's up with the Sox, why do you have the replica of a San Francisco 49ers helmet in your car? Being a native of the area (ok, ok, Malden isn’t Cambridge, that’s why I said area), I wasn’t put off by the slow embrace. I’ve been known to exercise it myself.

That said, the embrace came faster than usual, and for a very good reason. Usually when I came in it was to pick up a senior friend to give her a ride home. The minute I’d walk in the door the owner would point out exactly where my friend was. I swear there was a storewide sigh of relief when I walked in because the staff knew she would get home safely.

A longtime neighbor herself, going there meant seeing friends and standing in the aisles talking for minutes on end without anyone giving her the hairy eyeball. She had a particular fondness for Scott who, before I started picking her up, would occasionally give her a ride home. Once when I was away she wrote in an email that she’d been to Fresh Pond Market and the “cocktail party” was in full swing.

Sometimes if I arrived early I’d sit in my car and watch people come and go: wealthy matrons dressed and perfectly coiffed; gray-haired professorial-type men with pinched lips and knitted brows carrying out their own shopping bags; old--and I mean old—friends meeting and talking about “the city”; women managing multiple young children; kids of any age stopping in for an after-school ice cream. I even once saw a well-known lawmaker make an illegal U-turn to park in front, making me wonder what would happen if he saw me do the same thing.

Since as I said I'm a relatively newbie, FPM’s closing didn't hit me as hard as it did my friend. The owners are past traditional retirement age so it’s time. But the closing was a huge blow to its patrons . During the last week my friend made excuses to go multiple times. I saw a woman crying at the butcher counter, sad faces in the checkout line, and longtime customers standing in the aisle talking and shaking their heads. One of the owners, as always stationed at the front cashier, said what retirees say: “It’s time,” and “I’m not sure my wife is going to like me being around so much.”

A sort-of source of comfort is that the site of FPM is staying locally owned. Word has it that Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal of Formaggio fame have purchased it, and that they (very wisely in my opinion) haven’t given specifics about what FPM will become.

I went over today to take the accompanying picture. I hope that whatever the old FPM becomes, a sign just like this hangs out front when, inevitably, the next change occurs.