Just a Grocer's Son - Local author reflects on childhood
Updated: Feb 22
Growing up the oldest of five boys in an Italian-American family in Bellaire, attorney Dan Frizzi, Jr. was part of a slice of America that has all but disappeared - the family-owned, neighborhood grocery store. Frizzi, who previously authored two books on local history, recently published his family's unique story and it will be the topic of his February 24th Great Stone Viaduct Education Society's Winter Lecture Series. The lecture, via Facebook Live at 6 pm, will be presented from the Belmont County Heritage Museum and will feature the Frizzi's Market display on loan from Dan.
Frizzi writes, "Just a Grocer’s Son chronicles the life of an Italian American family which settled in a small twentieth century American industrial community to establish a neighborhood grocery store in 1919. This small neighborhood grocery store existed for more than a century throughout three generations of families".
After immigrating to America in 1910, two young Italian brothers - Artemio and Abramo Frizzi - opened a grocery store in 1919 in Bellaire. After Artemio moved to California, Abramo and his wife, Philmena, known as "Abe" and "Minnie" to Bellaire residents, moved the store to 2783 W. Washington St. The Frizzi's store became well known to the Italian community for staples in Italian cuisine. During World War II the market carried Romano cheese and olive oil which were scarce at the time. When Daniel Frizzi Sr. returned home after the war, he joined the family business and the name of the market was changed to Frizzi & Son. The market was moved to its fourth and final location at 112 Second Ave. in 1970. Daniel Sr. and his wife, Nancy, together with their five sons ran the store until Dan Sr.'s retirement in 1992, when son Richard and his wife, Kim took over operation of the market.
During those 100 years, the author, his brothers, and their father were grocer’s sons, working in the store business as children. Frizzi Jr. said he grew up "just and average kid" and started working in the family grocery store when he was in grade school, and continued through high school and college. He left the store when he was in his early twenties to go to law school.
Published by Fulton Books, Daniel L. Frizzi, Jr.'s book is a moving story that shares the trials and tribulations of a family operating a small neighborhood grocery store during the 20th century, and the gradual disappearance of the small family grocer from the American landscape.
"The book on my family’s business is an extension of a local history that I, in a small way, had the chance to be a part of. I worked with my father and grandfather in the store business as a young man, and now that they are gone after more than a century of that business existing in Bellaire," Frizzi said. "I felt it was a worthy topic. Our little grocery store was the last of dozens of small neighborhood grocery stores that used to dot all communities."
He said the most difficult part of writing the book was doing his best to get the family history accurate. "Some things I thought I knew from family history handed down over many years, actually had a different twist to it," Frizzi said.
Getting that family history down correctly also led to his biggest surprise in writing the book.
"The biggest surprise to me in writing, was information which I learned about my grandfather, Abramo Frizzi, that I had not really heard through family history," he said.
Frizzi, whose previous two books were about local history on railroads, and a biography on the man who brought the first railroad into Belmont County, said he has always had an interest in history. He said that being a "competent" typist; he found that writing came easy to him.
His love of history and photography also led to his involvement in the Great Stone Viaduct Society.
"I found that so many people and places in our local communities have interesting stories behind them," he said. "The Great Stone Viaduct is perhaps the most iconic structure in Bellaire, and it is worthy of keeping for future generations. Thus, my involvement!"
As a lover of local history, Frizzi has loaned many items of Bellaire history to the Belmont County Heritage Museum. When the market closed, Frizzi Jr. donated items from the store to be displayed in the Bellaire section at the Museum. The display includes items from the store such as grocery carts, scales, a postage stamp dispenser, and product packaging.