Joe Frady was born in a house on Banks Street in the Mid-City neighborhood of New Orleans Louisiana. At the family’s bidding a midwife came calling, and after a successful birth was paid the sum of $7 to bring the baby into the world.
That baby, now elderly, is filled with the vim of a man half his age.
Over a few cups of coffee the old corner store man and entrepreneur related tales of the Upper 9th Ward to a stranger who loves conversing with elderly New Orleanians who have a story to tell.
And what a story. Back in 1972 Mr Frady was interested in getting into the corner store game so he purchased Flick’s Meat Market at the corner of Dauphine and Piety, and established his eponymous One Stop. Joe Frady started out small, selling cold sandwiches and drinks to the neighborhood but a clamor grew for warm food so he installed a small kitchen and began vending hot plates and po boys to the residents of the Bywater.
He speaks of the Louisiana Home For Retarded Children that used to occupy the enormous building across the street that would eventually become Piety Street Recording Studio before finally becoming a residence. The old junk store at the end of the block was Leonard’s, a department store that outfitted the neighborhood in fine clothing.
Satsuma Cafe was the Bywater Post Office.
Talk turns to Bud Rip’s Tavern “Oh you knew Bud?” “He was a great man, always trying to help the neighborhood”
I tell him of how Bud got his start as a barman at Clem Huerstel’s old joint on St Claude and Frady lights up. “Huerstel’s? I haven’t heard that name in forever” He is delighted. “I use to hang out in there”
How about Little Pete’s just down the street? “Are you kidding?” “I went there every Friday afternoon, there was a line down the block to get in that place!”
At one point Joe Frady was a barman himself. He owned and operated Tango’s at the corner of France and St Claude but had problems with his lady barkeeps and ended up selling the joint to another entrepreneur. Sadly the structure caught fire and burned to the ground. Today there is only an empty lot where the business once stood.
Talk turns to Central City “Dryades was one of the nicest streets in the whole town” “There were pharmacies, banks, nightclubs, department stores….you name it”
An off-duty cop walks in wearing street clothes and the two begin cutting up. “Oh man I was bad when I was little. Mr Joe used to chase my Black ass out of here all the time. I’d run in, grab some candy and scoot right back out with Mr Joe right behind me” The old friends laugh at the recollection.
Another man walks in and Mr Frady introduces me to the “son of a movie star” The gentleman demurs but Frady suddenly announces “I’ll be right back!” and out the door he goes.
A few minutes later he comes back with a framed photo of the man’s father posing with Chuck Connors. Connors has a pistol pointed at the man’s head. The image is riveting.
More patrons stream in and out. Joe Frady greets each by name. Pensioners buy cheap cans of Budweiser, workmen in Dickies grab hotplates to eat in their pickup trucks, neo-Bohemians order .75c cups of coffee. Everybody’s got something to say to Mr Frady who’s been standing behind this counter for 44 years.
It comes time to leave so I say my goodbyes. “It was really good talking to you” Frady locks his bright blue eyes straight into mine.
I can see the man who sat on a bar stool at Clem Huerstel’s old beer joint just a few blocks away some half a century ago.
“I hope you’ll come back”
His gaze is piercing. It’s not hard to picture a young Frady wondering how he was going to wrangle his barkeeps into acting right and doing right a generation ago.
“Hey Joe, gimme a coffee, y’all got any biscuits today?” A stranger’s holler breaks up our conversation and Joe Frady gets back to work feeding the neighborhood; the same way he’s done since 1972.