Feeding Duquesne

If you would go back to Duquesne today, you would find what I call a rather “limited” number of grocery stores. Specifically ONE, and that would be Save-A-Lot Food Store in the Duquesne Plaza on what used to be North 1st Street prior to it becoming a parking lot.

In fairness, there are two other large grocery stores that also serve the Duquesne area, although they are located within West Mifflin boundries. There is a Giant Eagle in the shopping center near Kennywood and in Duquesne Village, there is a Foodland. I’m sure that these three stores are serving the needs of the community, and that’s just the nature of the beast these days.

What has prompted my sudden interest in grocery stores, was an article that  I remembered had been among our family pictures. It was rather yellowed and torn, but it was still readable. It was ripped from the pages of The McKeesport Daily News, however the date was missing. I remember the reason it had been save is that my mother’s face was supposedly among the crowd of spectators photographed. The crowd was watching a fire being fought at a grocery store at the top of Kennedy Ave near Peter Street. I vaguely remember the store. I remember walls that had high shelves and that the clerks had the long poles with a grabbing mechanism on the end that they would use to select product from the high shelves. Admittedly archaic by today’s standards, but back then, it was really cool to watch! The site of that store and fire became the eventual home of Kennedy Meat Market.

As usual, my mind started on a journey trying to recall other Mom and Pop grocery stores that supplied the food that fed Duquesne. It occurred to me that I had a rather limited frame of reference and could only recall a few. The stores were never very large. They only served a small portion of the area, most were within walking distance of a person’s home, and yet they were all able to survive and stay in business despite the number of stores in Duquesne. They were never really in competition with one another since each existed and served a specific geographic radius of families.

I had to call upon a few friends and readers to help me compile a list of stores in Duquesne. Lou Andriko, Dave Bonga and Tom Stoner were all very helpful in my informational quest and I really appreciate it! Unfortunately, I was not able to find any photographs of the stores during the time I was growing up, but I was able to capture a few shots of what they look like now, courtesy of Google Earth.

Prior to the introduction of a “Super” market into the area with the opening of Kroger’s at the former location of Kopriver’s Nursery, my mom basically shopped at the food stores that were within walking distance. Two-car families basically didn’t exist, and moms wouldn’t spend bus money on grocery shopping when there was one within walking distance. As a result, I grew up running to the grocery stores that were either at the top of Kennedy Avenue or to a small store at the corner of Mellon Street and Texas Ave.  At the top of Kennedy, there was “Andy’s”, which was officially called Kennedy Meat Market and on the opposite side of Andy’s was Isadore’s Grocery Store. I really never knew the official name of the little store at Texas and Mellon, but it was referred to as “Puskie’s,” which was Croatian for “rifle.” Can’t figure that one out.

We shopped at Isadore’s quite a lot. I was quite young, so there isn’t a lot I remember. About the only thing I recall is that the door was recessed and there were tiny black and white tiles in the entry way leading up to that single door. Beyond that, I don’t recall. I believe that Isadore’s closed shortly after Kroger’s opened. Kennedy Meat Market on the other hand, remained open for many years following the arrival of the “supermarket.”

I used to do a lot of shopping for my mom and dad at Andy’s. I remember the meat counter at the back right in the store. They would cut and wrap to order from what I recall. I don’t think there were ever any self-serve meat counters. I can remember that there were two butchers there. One was Andy Valco(?) and I cannot recall the other’s name. I just remember they were very friendly and would call me by name. I always had a list from my mom or dad; so they would just read it, cut it, pack it up and hand it over to me. Once I had gathered everything I was supposed to get, I would head to the register. There were no conveyer belts, but I think I recall these wooden frames on the counter that the cashier would pull forward with the groceries in order to reach them all. Lo-tech but efficient!

I never had to carry money to buy the groceries. Andy’s had a system of cards at the register that would put the purchases on a tab that would be paid each month by Mom or Dad. They would ring the items up and then insert the card when the sale was totaled. I would have to sign my name on the card, and that was always exciting to me. The part that always confused me when checking out was the need to separate taxable items from non-taxable items. The cashier would always help me with this chore. Plastic or paper bags wasn’t a consideration back then. Brown paper bags were the only route to go, and they never went to waste once they were brought home. Book covers, trash can liners, masks, lunch bags are just a few of the uses my Mom found for the bags.

In downtown Duquesne, I remember Alexander’s Market at the corner of Grant and North 1st Street. The details are rather vague in my mind, but I think that as you entered, the produce was up front, followed by the bake goods. Beyond that, I don’t remember any other details. On Auriles Street, just off of Kennedy was Mann’s Brother Grocery. Mann’s Brother’s was about the largest non-spermarket in town. We didn’t shop there often since it was rather far from Thomas Street.

Tom Stoner and Dave Bonga remembered a number of grocery stores, such as Tutera’s across St. Joe on Auriles, Thomas (Louis Thomas) Market across from GBU on Grant Ave.,  Soltice’s Market on Grant Ave. across from Schinks Hardware,  Bodnar’s  at Fifth and Crawford, and finally, Sidney’s at the corner of 5th and Kennedy, but it might not qualify as grocery store and more of a candy store. In addition, Dave wrote that there also was another Tutera’s on Hamilton Ave between 1st and 2nd, however it was more like a modern day lottery store as he remembered it. Dave also recalled a small market, Basik’s, at the corner of 3rd and Hamilton.  As a Duquesne Place resident, Dave spent many, many nickels on candy and baseball cards in Mary’s and Palchak’s Drug Store!!

Lou Andriko’s memory was in top form when he wrote about his Duquesne recollections. Coming down Pennsylvania Ave from Penn-Taft Pharmacy and just past Taft on the right, was Algeri’s. The store is still open, but is now called R&M Market. Further east on Pennsylvania just before getting to Mellon Street was Thomas Market. The building is still there but has been divided into two separate businesses. Lou wrote that he used to hand deliver weekly Thomas Market sale fliers for a penny a piece! He always wanted more to deliver, but he’d only be given a hundred. Lou took them door to door along Wool St. and Burns Ave, then up Maryland as far as they lasted. At the corner of Mehaffey and Crawford was the Anastas’ store, known for their very good butcher department and run by Boyko and Bricky Anastas. Boyko was the butcher, while Bricky ran the front end. Bricky was also the water meter reader for city of Duquesne. Lou remembers when his parents leaving all the doors open and Bricky would knock on the basement screen door and holler, ‘Waaaaaterman!”

One block further east was Helmeczi’s, a little mom & pop store with a fountain! It was next to Steve Farkas’s tavern on the corner of Crawford at Collier Alley. A bit further east on Crawford at the corner of Wool and Crawford, is a yellow brick two story building. A Jewish family used to live in the second floor apartment, and the father ran a kosher butcher shop on 1st floor.

Progress and competition have obviously forced virtually all of the small food stores out of business. I am certain that the convenience, pricing and speed of transaction at the Giant Eagles and Foodlands of the world far exceed that of the old Mom and Pop stores in Duquesne. Yet no matter how fast, big and quick those businesses are, just like the old TV show Cheer’s, it was nice to go to a place where everyone knew your name. Ma and Pa, you are missed!

This entry was posted in Duquesne Buildings, Food and Restaurants, Stores and Businesses. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Feeding Duquesne

  1. Butch Fike says:

    I can recall a Better Foods market at 5th & Pricilla & Bodnars store on 4th & Pricilla across from the Ken Park Hotel .

  2. Betty (Pucci) Rubinsak says:

    Does anyone remember the stores on South Duquesne Avenue? It was probably called “little Italy” back in the day. My uncle, Rocco Abbatangelo had a grocery store there,Palmieri’s had a confectionary store, My uncle, Mike Pucci had a “soda fountain” up near one of the Mill entrances, My father had his office at the bottom of Center Street, Morini’s had a grocery store, there was a cleaner’s , numerous bars, I think one of the bars was Sabosleys. I also remember that Malamisuro’s had a business, I used to go get a perm every year the day beore school started. It was an all day affair. I hated it. Leonatti’s had their business near the bridge.
    I only have good memories of growing up in Duquesne. Those were “The Good Old Days”

    • Michelle Mayo says:

      Hi, I have been researching my husband’s family, Malamisuro. We know that his great-grandfather had a store in Duquesne. I see that you mentioned that in your post above. do you have any more information about the family? If you can email me at bunnydad100@gmail.com. Thank you

    • Eileen Tokar Lilley says:

      Hi Betty,
      Your dad and mine had on ongoing friendship. His name was George Tokar. He would walk the block down from Orchard Court to your dad’s office to shoot the breeze if your dad wasn’t too busy and he worked as a volunteer every election. Was your dad mayor at one time? I got my school perms also at Flora Malamisuro’s. I walked from Orchard Court across Center St and into the alley and down the steps to Flora’s back door. She was a good beautician but I hated those perms! My mother and Flora continued their friendship after we moved and then they became our neighbors on the next hill in North Huntingdon. No one could grow a tomato like Mr. Malamisuro. Mmmm You can email me if you like at elilley53@msn.com. Yes, I do remember all those stores very fondly that you mentioned on South Duquesne Ave. Sorry this post is just getting to you, but I’m fairly new to this blog and I’m reading all the old issues. It’s been fun!

    • my mom pat shields knew a guy last name pucci ….they were good friends he had a office front on priscilla ave , he used to give me gumballs,,my mom would yell at him
      ,,,,,duq was so cool back in the day

  3. Robert Szuch says:

    Who remembers Switlak’s store on Fifth St.? I remember the 9 cents movie at the Plaza and with my change from a dime, I would run over to Switlak’s for a pretzel stick. Across from Switlak’s was a store named Waltral’s (not sure of the spelling). Bob Szuch

    • Michael Bashista says:

      That was Watral’s, Bob. My parents & I lived in an apartment right above the store for several years before we got the house on Priscilla. The rest of the building’s apartments were all Frank’s children and grandchildren.

    • Russ Acheson says:

      Switlak’s store was owned by my grandfather and grandmother, Michael & Elizabeth Switlak. I can picture the store, paticularly where my grandfather sat against the wall,

      • Michael Bashista says:

        Russ, that was Watral’s across from your grandparents store. Frank Watral’s owned the bldg & store. I lived in the apt directly above the store with my parents. The rest of the bldg was Frank’skids & grand kids. He used to let me help out in the store occasionally since I grew up working in the store my parents had on Auriles. I remember your grandparents well as I would go there many times.

  4. John (Jack) Simcina says:

    It was interesting reading the locals account of my former hometown. My dad was “Big John” Simcina of the Hilltop Dairy. He and my mother Alice owned the store and my Dad and his sisters, Helen Simcina and Elsie Simcina Baker worked at the store for as long as I can remember until 1968 when my parents closed the store and moved to Florida near where I have have lived since 1965. Duquesne was an interesting and fun place to grow up. Kennywood Park and “hanging out” in the Duquesne Annex and at the “Hilltop”. It was an innocent and simpler time. p.s. I remember Bill Larkin (Spook was a nickname, I think) and Marguerite Umholtz from the Hilltop.

  5. Jack Schalk says:

    Your minds are like trap.
    I was in the pix taken while Andys store was burning but was off to the side. I did see Bob Mowrys face in there.
    I worked at Isidores for a couple of years. They were great people to work for.
    Ron Macosko, I remember your trombone skills from high school and your wife Judy was a friend at that time also. I think she was a friend of my wife, Daryle Hollar. Daryle passed away 3 years ago.

    • rich s says:

      I worked at Woody’s at the old Mifflin Manor S C…Ron Macosko was the owner & my boss…one of the best people I ever met…like a big brother…his wife Judy…one of the sweetest ladies I’ve known…mother of a fantastic brood…lots of meaningful & great insight from both…forever Ron & Judy

  6. Paul Neslanik says:

    Tom McLaughlin and Mike Bashista: Auriles is spelled with one ‘L’ not two. Both lived on Auriles and should know that. Mike, the store your parents ran, was it called Ann’s? The store on Auriles and Viola was Henry’s and Auriles and Priscilla was something like Orlie’s. Orlies a bit bigger than Henry’s who specialized in meats. Yes McLaughlin’s live next to Moran’s. The two Moran boys were Bruce, lost in Vietnam, and Craig who moved to Hollywood, Florida where his folks owned a motel. A small kidney shaped pool was in Moran’s backyard. Tom has a brother Rick..
    The McLaughlin boys were fairly smart in school and had a beautiful cousin who live on the corner of Auriles and Viola, I think she was their cousin. If not she should have been.

    • Michael Bashista says:

      Paul, My parents store was Helen & Micky’s [sign over door]. Before they ran it, it may have been called Ann’s. We rented an apt in the building which was owned by Ann Kovac (?) I believe. Thanks for the neighborhood update & the street spelling correction, which I should have known. I also remember Joann Gorney (sp?), she lived further down toward Kennedy on the same side as Moran’s. She was in the store a lot [great looking as I remember] & used to babysit me once in a while.
      It really was a great street/neighborhood to live in. As kids we had free reign anywhere on the street as it seemed like we had a street full of parents!

      • EK says:

        Good Ol’ Aunt Anne (I’m pretty sure she had an “e” at the end, but I’d have to go back and look at old Christmas cards). She was a trip!

      • Eileen Moses Plescia says:

        Michael, I had an Aunt Joann Gorney. She was my Mom’s sister and actually my Godmother. She died in her forty’s, from breast cancer. She lived on Aurilles Street.

  7. John (Jack) Berta says:

    Easter was a special time. I remember some stores would sell colored peeps, remember the baby chickens. One year while shopping with my dad, I talked him into buying a couple. While they were small, we kept them in the basement in a cardboard box with a light bulb on to keep them warm. As the season changed from spring to summer we moved them outside and I had the perfect place. We no longer had a dog but we still had the doghouse. We placed some straw inside and the doghouse was a great chicken coop. They were allowed to roam the backyard during the day. Because I talked dad into buying them, I was in charge of feeding them. Riding my bike down to Mann’s Market on Grant Ave. to buy chicken feed (cracked and mashed corn) was easy, all down hill , but the trip back home was a lot harder, all up hill. I made the trip all summer when ever necessary and they grew fast. Again the season changed. The peeps changed. They were full grown chickens. Now what to do with two chickens. Grandma had the answer. Soup! I also remember Goltz produce being on First street along with Plaza Jewelers, I think there was a Kestlers Jewelers, Woodies Drug store, a State Store, Stones Hardwear and a Firestone Store (tires and other car items) and don’t forget Leonatti Brothers who moved to a new location on Duquesne Blvd. at the Duquesne end of the Duquesne/ McKeesport bridge before moving finally to McKeesport. Going down Grant Ave. from Frist Street on the right corner was a durg store (name?), Isaly’s, a womens store, Sally Fashion I think, had to be a bar in there somewhere, an Army & Navy Store, maybe another store or two, and a bank (name?) was on the right corner of Grant Ave. and Duquesne Blvd. and I think it had a barbershop beneath or beside it. Could have been the forerunner of The Ideal Barbershop owned by Frank (???). It was on Grant Ave. across from the park. Who remembers Frank’s brother Leo? What about Bob, who cut hair at Ideal. He was working at Tom’s Barbershop by Koprivers. I heard that he retired. All these stores/shops were lost to the fire and or Re-devolopment as mentioned in other comments on this blog. Oh those old memories.

    • Betty (Pucci) Rubinsak says:

      Frank and Leo Gigliotti were the brothers who had the barbershops. Leo even had moved to Century III Mall when it opened but left and opened up a small shop up at the County Airport until he was unable to work anymore. He passed away a few years ago.l I also t
      think that Bob(if he was Bob Arendash) just passed away

      Also, don’t forget Benovitz’s children store, Jones Dress Shop, a shoe store, Murphy’s 5 & 10. Duquesne was a “booming” town back in the day. Didn’t we all get our “class rings” from Kruetzer’s Jewelry Store on Grant Avenue? Popcorn and warm peanuts from Elsie’s on the corner of Grant and First, also a movie theater on Grant (which was before my time) also Plaza Theater on First Street, movie’s were 25 cents. Those were the days, (Really, the Good Old Days)

  8. Claudia Repko Misage says:

    Okay once again Duquesne Place amd Babic’s Grocery Store on Overland Avenue. Every single day after school that was my job to go and get food for dinner. Budie, probably spelling that wrong, was the man who owned the store and his wife Mary worked there. He cut the meat fresh from the meat freezer and ground the meat right before your eyes. I could picture him sharping his big knife on the leather strap thingie that hung from his butcher table. Saturday was the BIG order and sometimes I had to make two trips just to carry it all home. Oh remembering all of this is just wonderful. Love hearing from everyone and thank you oh so very much for starting this site. Great, Wonderful, Fantastic.

  9. Ralph DeRose says:

    After Algeri’s, the R&M was the first names of the purchasers from Algeri’s. They were Ron Malamisuro and Mike Gavula. They are cousins. on originally started Salerno’s Pizza Shops.

  10. Tom Lane says:

    And the candy store/small grocery on Wilmont was Umholtz’s. Loved stopping there on the way to and from school. Hi Jane!

    • Tom, WOW! Thanks for remembering the name. I recognized it as soon as I read your comment! Keep reading!!!

      Jim Volk The Duquesne Hunky

    • John Dillinger says:

      Across from Umholtz (Bens) store was Umholtz the dentist. I think he had a daughter named Margarite.

      • J. Wayne Umholtz says:

        You are correct. My grandfather, H Wayne Umholtz Sr, had his dentist office just accross the
        street from great granddad’s store. The youngest of three children, Marguerite, is my Aunt.
        J Wayne Umholtz

  11. Ron Macosko says:

    The candy store was Williamson’s, …….wooden floors with candy cases framed in wood. Mr Williamson’s home was connected to the back of the candy store…..so my wife, Judy (Lane) Macosko …tells me.

  12. Jane Fulmer Pocsatko says:

    There also was a candy store nexts to Valco’s store. Can’t remember the name, but it became a cleaners later. On the corner of Kennedy and Wilmot St there was a candy store [there was a dentist across the street and the store was his father’s]. We would go there on the way back to St. Joe’s after lunch. My sisters and I worked at Valco’s store when in high school. There were 2 other butchers, Riggie and Chuck. Johnny’s HillTop Dairy was owned by Johnny Simcinna . I remember going to Andy’s store before the fire and there were big square boxes with glass lids full of cookies.
    Happy days. Duquesne was a great place to grow up.

    • Jim says:

      Jane, I don’t know the name of the candy store, but the cleaners was Plastino’s. Johnny’s wife was Helen Simcinna at the Hilltop Dairy if am recalling correctly. Thanks for the memories!

    • Bill Larkin says:

      I love the picture of Andy Valcos market. I grew up in the house on the next corner of Kennedy Ave. and Peter St. my Mom worked there also. Jane I remember your Mom Rita and all your sisters, what a great place it was to grow up, I haven’t been back in years. The Hill Top Dairy owned by John and Alice Simcina, I think I may have mispelled the last name was directly across from the front of our house. We all hung out there at one time or another. I can remember the previous Andy’s was wooden and when it burned down My Dad pulled Andy out of the store when it was burning and saved him. I remember standing on the opposite side of the street and feeling the intense heat from the fire. So many memories it was a great neighborhood when We were kids. I now live in New Mexico, but miss the old days.

    • cathy sturm says:

      the cleaners was Plastino’s

  13. Kathryn (Kitty Jean Topley) Morris says:

    I grew up in the 30’s and 40’s on Third St. and remember going to the A&P on First St.,in Duquesne. The highlight was to go there to purchase butter. The butter came in a huge block and they would cut and weigh it. You rarely got the amt. exactly as you wanted as it was all a guess. At the lower end of Third St. was a fantastic candy store and if you were lucky enough to get a penny or two-you spent a lot of time choosing what you wanted to eat on your way to school. Great place to grow up!

  14. Laurine E. says:

    Max Goltz’s market used to be on First Street about half-way down the block and on the opposite side from Alexander’s.

  15. judy kray lochner says:

    There was the A&P on first street past Bud and Jerry’s Donut Shop. Manns used to be on Grant across from the high school. They had wooden floors with saw dust on them and a big pickle barrell. The meat dept. was in the back. They then moved to Aurilles St. There was Goltz produce on Grant also. On Grant we also had Balchunas and Guyer little neighborhood stoors. Keep up the good work, really enjoy the memories.

  16. Eileen Phillips says:

    Most of all I remember—ALGERI’s. I would walk there to get the best chipped ham, jumbo, and donuts. (oh yeah, and penny candy in a little brown paper bag). Mr. Algeri was fun! He would shock me by dropping his front false teeth. (we didn’t call them “dentures” then). “Jumbo” was what we called bologna, and it wasn’t until I was an adult and moved away and asked for “Jumbo” they did not know what I was talking about. I looked in the show case and pointed and said ” BO LOG NA “!!

  17. Tom McLaughlin says:

    Jim, I remember a couple of other stores on Aurilles Street. We used to shop at Mann’s, but there was also a candy store that sold some miscellaneous graceries. It was on the corner of Aurilles and Smoker Alley. They stayed in business basically by writing numbers. I used to play them there when I was younger. Also, there was a grocery store at the corner of Aurilles and Viola. They were a lot smaller than Mann’s and finally closed as they lost out to Mann’s. On another front, there was a store that sold eggs and chicken between 1st and 2nd streets. I remember going in with my father and witnessing them put chickens head fist and cutting the heads off over a garabage can. They would then pluck and dress the bird for you. Talk about fresh chicken!! Only real problem was the smell.

    BTW, it was a G. C. Murphy store on 1st Street.

    • Michael Bashista says:

      Tom, the little confection store on Auriles and Smoker Alley was run by my Mom and Dad [Mike [Bake] & Helen Bashista & me as a very small child]. We lived upstairs on the 2nd floor in the bldg [Kovak’s owned the bldg and lived there]. I think the store at Aurilles and Viola was Henry’s. Didn’t they also put in a small grocery down at Priscilla and Aurilles?

    • Michael Bashista says:

      Tom, Your name is so familiar and I’m trying to remember how I know you? Did you live in the big yellow brick house next to Morans on Aurilles St?

  18. Tom Lane says:

    You left out the Hilltop
    Dairy across from “Andys” meat market. Used to love to play pinball in the back and a good soda fountain counter in front. It was run by “big John”, but forget his last name. My mother would send me there to buy her cigarettes. No problem for a 8 year old to buy them. Times have changed.

  19. Lou A. says:

    This Just In: The Jewish meat market was called Taper’s. Andy Valco WAS the Butcher, and owner of Kennedy Meat Market, his son Tommy was a year behind me at St Joe’s. And to the best of her memory, the five and dime was a G.C. Murphy’s. Sorry, Mom, guess your memory’s better than mine…

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