Passion is one of the primary factors that lead to success. It’s not always easy to identify when you see it, but it’s easily noticed when missing. Larry Bononi, owner and operator of Freddie’s Market, is in the business of passion.

Freddie’s Market, a third-generation neighborhood grocery store, has been in operations in some form or another for more than 90 years and has been serving up high-quality products at its current location in Webster Groves, Missouri, since 1969 – celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

It’s not enough to have good products though; Freddie’s Market has seen sustained success due to the passion of the owner, the employees, and local growers and vendors in the region. Although the store carries more than 100 local products, Bononi says they’re gearing up to carry even more. However, not all local products get put on the shelves.

“I have one simple rule: If they’re passionate about their product, I will give it a shot,” Bononi says. “I try to support local farmers and vendors because they’re passionate.”

While many visit Freddie’s for its top-quality produce, exceptional meats and all of the necessary staples for your kitchen, Bononi recommends checking out the prepared foods available. From daily plate specials and fresh baked goods to deli sandwiches and an array of delicious custom prepared meats, there’s a lot more than meets the eye in the neighborhood market.

In the meat department, all the beef is USDA Choice or higher, and grass-fed beef and grass-fed ground chuck are available. Steak, beef and pork are all hand-cut, the pork and chicken is locally sourced, and all the sausage is made in house.

An important aspect of its operations is a remembrance of its roots. Back in 1928, Alfred Bononi Sr. came over to the United States from Modena, Italy, and opened the family’s first market in Livingston, Illinois. Alfred and his brother had to decide between the two of them who would operate the family farm and who would operate the market. And what better way to make this decision than drawing straws? A couple of decades later, Alfred Jr. – better known as Freddie – went on to purchase a shop in St. Louis and expanded it in 1969 to Webster Groves, where it’s operated since.

Larry Bononi, who started working in the store when he was 8 years old, eventually took over operations in 1988 and has integrated Freddie’s Market into the framework of the community by partnering and working with local churches, schools and businesses to create a synergy of stakeholders throughout Webster Groves.

“People help each other,” Bononi says. Everyone reciprocates each other’s kindness. Bononi recalled random customers helping him load up pumpkins, and his employees are always quick to help anyone nearby in need. “[Everyone] is helpful and caring.”

Being in operation for decades requires strong knowledge and foresight into your customer base. Things change, and business owners have to keep up.

“The biggest change is customer shopping habits,” Bononi says. “People want more ready-to-prepare foods. We’ve always done home deliveries, but that has picked up lately.”

Freddie’s Market prides itself on being knowledgeable about everything in the store. Customers enjoy talking with employees about the best ways to prepare specific meats and produce. Employees enjoy learning customers’ favorite recipes, as well – there’s even a board on which customers can hang these recipes for others to copy down.

The driving force behind all decisions and success for the past 90 years remains the same – passion. It also helps to have the support, knowledge, skill and gumption from an amazing wife who shares the same passions, and anyone would be hard-pressed to find a better partner than Larry’s wife, Cathy. What sets Freddie’s Market apart from others is the experience you’ll receive when interacting with its staff.

“You can get a can of green beans anywhere in town, but you can’t always be treated with respect everywhere in town,” Bononi says.

Freddie’s Market, 9052 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, Missouri, 314.968.1914, freddiesmarket.com

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Daniel Puma is a contributor for Feast. He has a penchant for board games, a soft spot for dogs and a strong hatred of beans.

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