Frinzi’s Finer Foods
By Cynthia Sommer
Many eastsiders fondly remember Frinzi’s Finer Foods located in Murray Hill on the corner of Locust & Murray (2865 N. Murray – the building now houses Bikesmiths). I recently had a wonderful visit with the owners, Joe & Pat Frinzi, and hope to tell some of their story. They have vivid memories and still miss the wonderful customers and the many workers who were like part of their family. They felt Murray Hill was a great neighborhood to raise their children. Many UWM students earned their way through college by working part-time in their store. Prior to their retirement in 1989, Frinzi’s was a meeting place for the neighborhood.
Frinzi’s Finer Foods was more than a local grocery store in that they had a full line of groceries, fresh-daily produce and meats. Joe, who is a fifth generation butcher going back to Sicily, insured the finest meats and produce by getting up at 4 am each day to find the freshest produce from the Third Ward and the best cuts of meat from the Valley Meat Packers. For the various holiday, Joe would get fresh turkeys from the farmers for Thanksgiving and fresh USDA goats and sheep for Easter holidays. They made their own Italian, Polish and Bratwurst sausages. Frinzi’s Finer Foods served customers from WhitefishBay to the Downtown apartments, providing custom service and special cuts of meat. The five phone lines, two delivery trucks and 10 employees (some may also remember Harold Larson, another anchor in the store) were always busy working and delivering food to their many customers. Pat Frinzi was kept more than busy with managing the accounts of the charge customers, helping in the store, coordinating the staff of 10 people besides raising six children (3 sons and 3 daughters), As Pat recalls, she often got “just four hours of sleep a night” though both Joe and Pat recognized and appreciated the help of Pat’s mom who would come daily to care for their kids in their home above the store. The store was open six days a week and later the store also opened for Sunday morning hours. Their sons and daughters grew up working in the store and felt the experience was an invaluable education.
Pat & Joe Frinzi were of a generation of hardworking entrepreneurs in a growing vibrant neighborhood. Joe actually started running his father’s meat store in the Third Ward at the age of 17 because of his father’s health problem of diabetes resulting in his legs being amputated. Pat also worked through school at a grocery store at 35th and National. Her experience at the store led her to state at one time that “I would never marry a grocer.” Luckily, she changed her mind! Joe and Pat have been married 60 years and have lived to see the success of their six children, including the addition of 14 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. This strong family rents a church hall each year to accommodate the 100 plus family and friends who come to celebrate Thanksgiving together. Our wishes are that Pat & Joe continue to have good memories, health and happiness with their many family, friends and neighbors. Thanks for your many contributions through the years to the Murray Hill neighborhood.