If you grew up the Montclair District of Oakland from 1956 to about 1990 you shopped at Freeway Variety.
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.
In 1957 Iventosch bought out his partner Fritz.
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
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
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: 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!
Recently someone asked about when 7-Eleven came to Montclair. Which was about 1958.
I thought I would go back a little farther and tell you about the first store in Montclair.
A little history…
In 1925 the land that 7-Eleven is now on was bought by a man named Otto Schuneman. Mr. Schuneman then built a store. His store was a combination fountain and grocery store and a service station in front.
The original building is still standing behind the 7-11 store.
I haven’t been able to find any photos of the store or the station.
Funk’s Grocery – 1930-1940
In March of 1930, Davis L. Funk leased the store from Schuneman and bought out his remaining stock. Mr. Funk had owned a couple other stores in Oakland.
He called his store Funk’s Grocery.
The Funk family lived at 5677 Thornhill in the mid to late 30s to early 40s.
In the early 1960s the Montclair Presbyterian Church next door bought the house from the owners.
My ex-husband and I worked for the church from 1983- 1987 and we got to live in the house.
In 1940 Funk took on a partner his son-law Malcom “Scotty” Hodge the husband of his daughter Lenore and the store was re-named the Montclair Food Center.
Funk and Hodge ran the store together until Funk died in 1949 his home on Grisborne Avenue, behind the store.
Hodge and his wife continued on after that until 1957 when they couldn’t work out a new lease with the owner Otto Schuneman. My thought is…it was because he could make more money leasing it to Speedee Mart
When the store closed down in 1957 it was the last one Montclair that had maintained a credit and delivery service. Montclair Food Center was more than just a store to many of the customers of 20 years or more.
By 1957 Montclair was also changing. Payless Grocery Store (soon to be Luckys) and LaSalle Avenue Market were located in the business district and soon a new Safeway would be built.
Speedee Mart 1958-1966?
In about 1958 the store was leased by Speedee Mart Corporation.
In 1964 the parent company of the 7-Eleven Stores bought all the Speedee Mart franchises in California.
They began slowly changing the name to 7-Eleven (7-11)