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Wilhelm: Looking back at Front Street businesses – The News-Messenger

Roy Wilhelm

Have you been to Fremont’s downtown lately? I think — especially given the limitations of the past year and more — it’s uplifting to see the number of local businesses on Front Street between Croghan and Garrison streets.

Let’s hope the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to diminish and bring more and more people to shop in the stores and restaurants that line that block and elsewhere in the city.

I never cease to be amazed by the number of businesses that can locate in a city block, building the economy and memories at the same time.

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A walk along Front Street in that area has you passing one business after another and brings back memories of the businesses that lined the street 60-some years ago.

The corner of Front and Croghan streets.

Back in 1958 when you turned the corner from Croghan Street and headed south along the west side of the street, you would pass nearly 20 businesses before you reached the corner of Front and Garrison.

The old National Bank building at the corner of Front and Croghan had become temporary home to the recently merged Liberty National Bank with the “Liberty office” at the corner of Arch and State.

Jean Frocks was next door to the bank with Freeh’s Restaurant just to the south.

Getting down to business on the streets of Fremont

As you continued down Front Street, you would find S-K Drug Store, Walter Hoffman shoes and the businesses upstairs in that Buckland Building: The American Cancer Society, R. B. Fangboner rentals and real estate, doctors W.J. Martin and M. M. Riddell. The Masonic temple and lodge were also upstairs in that block.

Bob Hall’s Men’s Shop would be next followed by City Loan and Savings Co. Then came the A. L. Bintz women’s clothing store, Lee’s shoe store, Bechberger’s and Harvey Oaks Jewelers with Frank’s Quality Jewelers right next door. Somehow, there was still room for more.

The Fashion Shoppe was at 128 with Schmidt Hat and Gift Shop at 130 South Front. Ash Milliner and the Singer Sewing Center of Fremont would bring you to Garrison Street.

There were fewer businesses across the street, but many of them were larger stores, such as the “dime stores” and Joseph’s Department Store.

F. W. Woolworths was right at the corner of Front and Croghan on the east side of the street. Lord’s Dress shop was next door with Lytle’s men’s store right south of Lord’s.

From there you would find the J.J. Newberry Co. and then Crosby’s Shoes between Newberry’s and the S.S. Kresge Co. Kresge’s would be followed by yet another shoe store —  Seegel’s —  before you would come to what was one of the longtime anchor’s downtown — Joseph’s Department Store.

Certainly these stores provided many memories for longtime Fremonters.

Today, the shops are mostly different, but they offer experiences that will bring you back time and again to find the treats and build new memories.

Roy Wilhelm started a 40-year career at The News-Messenger in 1965 as a reporter. Now retired, he writes a column for both The News-Messenger and News Herald.