Posted in Business, History, Montclair, People, Uncategorized

Freeway Variety

Freeway Variety
Photo by Bill Boyd

C 1978

If you grew up the Montclair District of Oakland from 1956 to about 1990 you shopped at Freeway Variety.

The Montclarion March 1956

Freeway Variety opened in March of 1956. It was owned and operated by partners Cy Fritz and David Iventosch. They both had experience running the same type of stores in Berkeley.

The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956
The Montclarion March 1956

In 1957 Iventosch bought out his partner Fritz.

The Montclarion Apr 17 1957
The Montclarion Apr 17 1957
The Montclarion May 1957

I felt the best way to describe this most beloved and dearly missed variety store is by sharing memories of it which were detailed in a Facebook group.   The group is lovingly called  Forgotten Montclair.  It is dedicated to preserving and sharing the memories of growing up in the Montclair District of Oakland, California.

  • Laura C: I bought my Beautiful Crissy doll there, in elementary school, along with my camping cookware for Brownie camp. When I graduated to high school, I bought my powder blue gym clothes there.
  • Joanne G: Freeway Variety was “candy land” heaven to me!  My mom never let me have candy growing up – not ever once being able to trick or treat. So if I was ever able to ride my bike up to Freeway Variety from lower Broadway Terrace (all uphill)! The Now or Later were my first choice after a spin around the store to take in the isles of crazy stuff
Joan G
  • Todd E: Lived in Montclair 1970 – 1992. Freeway Variety was like the ultimate dive bar of five and dimes. It was kind of dark with low ceilings, but it was comfy. It felt a little bit like a place where you could buy a Gremlin from some ancient guy in the back where all the wicker baskets hung from the ceiling.  There were nuances to Freeway Variety that can never be replicated anywhere else. There was nothing funnier than riding your BMX down that strange concrete slope and dropping your bike down and entering the store in one fluid motion. It’s the place where I thought Army Men and those little parachute dudes where born. It had all the romantic stuff of childhood, candy, cards, Slurpee’s, video games, toys, Choose Your Own Adventure Books, a whole section on Movie Novelizations (with pictures in the middle!), strange arcane stuff like rabbit’s feet and real Mexican Jumping Beans.To me, the basic concept of what 1 mile is will always be the walk from my house over by Joaquin Miller School to Freeway Variety.
  • Christopher W:  Ah there it is, my favorite store growing up in Montclair. While my mom shopped at Lucky’s I would be down at Freeway Variety looking for everything from match cars, Pez dispensers, loved the chocolate ones, and when I was really small, I would get a quarter and ride the horse in the front. Good times
Christopher W
  • Cherie L: We would walk down there from Westwood Way. Buster brown socks. Schools supplies. Candy you name it. Lived in Montclair from 1959 to 1982. 
  • Nanette: I loved Freeway Variety! The old creaky wood floor that sloped down. You could get art (my favorite), craft, and school supplies. And of course where we got our Wacky Packs!!!!·    
  • Dennis J: Does anyone remember the ladies of Freeway Variety store? Florence, Winnie, Mildred, and May.  I worked there after school and weekends. Coolest boss ever: Big David Iventosch. My first real job!!!
  • Helene C: Loved everything about Freeway Variety. The smell of popcorn, candy, turtle pond scum. The only place where you could get candy, washcloths, home goods, toys, candy, an iron, a picture frame, valentines, Christmas cards, canning jars, toy guns, turtles, popcorn, and candy. And those old ladies behind the counter. A golden childhood staple and memory. I pity everyone else.
  • Dena M: I remember we would all go there to pick out our Halloween costumes and buy wax harmonicas.
Lara Christmas Memory 1983
  • Lara: I loved getting presents from here. Thanks to my mom, this is dated. I guess that means I am too! 33 years ago . . .
  • Erik H:  Florence always gave me extra on my Icee. But you introduced me to the “Suicide “flavored slush.
  • Jan D: The ladies used to follow us around the store, thinking we were going to steal something!
  • Stephanie W: Florence was my auntie
Susan S
  • Susan S: Look what I found cleaning out my closet
Donna
  • Donna:   I still have my Ink bottles and pens.
Basket from Freeway Variety

Obituary David Iventosch – Oakland Tribune – April 2019

The End

Author:

I have been an Oakland history buff since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland, in the mid-80's. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair, in the early 1900's and that people lived the area as early as 1860's. I have been hooked ever since. Since then I have spent a lot of time looking into the history of Montclair and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.

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