Last week we looked at Norman “Allie” Anderson and his Anderson’s Variety Store at 97 High St. in Ferry Village. The store on the right side of that same building, with a 95 High St. address, was operated by Frank W. Richardson, Jr. and his wife Lila Thompson Richardson.

Let’s take a look at Frank Richardson, Jr. and his father, both longtime grocers in Ferry Village.

In a late-1920s view, looking west on High Street, the one-story building that encompassed 95-97 High St. is on the right. Just beyond it is the two-story Dow’s Drug Store building. On the left side of the street is the old Peoples Methodist Episcopal Church. South Portland Historical Society photo

Frank Richardson, Jr. was born in South Portland in 1900, the son of Frank and Mabel Coombs Richardson. He worked at the South Portland shipyards during World War II. The store at 95 High St. had been operated as an A&P for many years, run by Samuel Klain, but the store was vacant after the war, so Frank Jr. decided to open his own business there.

“Frank’s” was a full-service neighborhood grocery selling fresh foods, dry goods, canned goods and a whole lot of bread and milk. What it was most known for, however, was its homemade ice cream, made on site by Lila Richardson. According to their son Frank Richardson, III, the ice cream was first sold under the name Frank’s Homemade Ice Cream, but the state took issue with the name, as their definition of “homemade” was very strict (a product that had to be made in the home), so the Richardson’s fixed that problem by dropping the word homemade from the name and calling it Frank’s Ice Cream, instead.

Regardless of the state’s position at the time, the ice cream was most definitely homemade by Lila Richardson, and the quality was so good that the ice cream was a driving factor in the success of the store. According to her son, Lila would make a wide variety of flavors, sometimes having 20, 30 or even 40 different varieties on hand for customers to choose from.

Local resident Carol Campbell remembers going into the store for ice cream. She’d ask whoever was working to tell her which flavors were there that day so she could choose and, after hearing the very long list of flavors, she would normally just pick her favorite, vanilla.

Frank W. Richardson, Sr. served as the Maine state representative from South Portland from 1928 until 1937. South Portland Historical Society photo

As you walked into the store, the whole right front corner of the store was devoted to ice cream. Lila would start by making custard on a stove, then use a machine to mix the flavors before putting it into small cups which were put on racks and frozen.

Some flavors would also be sold in pint and quart containers, but if someone wanted a quart of a flavor that wasn’t already packaged that way, a clerk could scoop it on the spot for them. Some of the popular flavors included vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, coffee, maple walnut, pistachio, banana nut, butter rum and grape-nut. Lila would make up her own Neapolitan ice cream, but she called her vanilla/chocolate/strawberry combination “rainbow” ice cream, instead. She would also make brownies and other baked goods.

Frank’s grocery was a family operation, with Frank Richardson, Jr., his wife Lila, and their two kids, Frank III and Irene, all working in the store when they had time. Frank Jr. also worked at Benoit’s in Portland, and Lila worked as a nurse, so they hired locals to work in the store when they weren’t there.

One key person was Millard Cole, who not only worked in the store, but he lived in the back of the building. He provided security overnight and he could open the store at 5 a.m., take deliveries, clerk during the day, and keep the coal-burning stove going in winter. Frank Richardson III remembered how kind “Coley” was, especially how he would sharpen all the neighborhood kids’ skates in the winter at no charge.

Of course, running a store came pretty natural to Frank Richardson, Jr. as his father was also a grocer in Ferry Village for many years. Frank W. Richardson, Sr. was born in Cape Elizabeth (South Portland) in 1867. After working for the Portland ship chandlery W.S. Jordan & Co., Frank, Sr. decided to open his own grocery business in Ferry Village.

He first took over a small store near the northern end of Stanford Street in 1899. After less than a year in business, his store was damaged by fire in September 1899. He moved his salvaged inventory to William F. Spear’s building on the ferry wharf and had a new building constructed on the corner of Stanford and High streets. He opened his grocery in that building and was in business there from 1900 through the late 1910s. He sold a lot of fresh meats with a butcher shop in the store, and he also carried a full line of grocery items. Like most grocers of his time, Frank W. Richardson, Sr. offered home delivery. He had six horses available for delivery by wagon and did a brisk business selling to customers throughout South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough.

After he closed his store, Frank, Sr. worked as a traveling salesman for a food company in Boston.

Frank Richardson, Sr. was very politically active in South Portland. He served as an alderman in 1901 and 1903, on the school board for seven years, and as the Maine state representative from South Portland from 1928 until his death in 1937. Not surprisingly with his political affiliations he had many influential friends. He was a good friend and hunting buddy of James Otis Kaler (our superintendent of schools until his death in 1912). He was also friends and would go hunting with Leon L. Bean.

Photographs of the Richardson family and their stores have proven very difficult to find. If anyone has photographs or other information to share about the Richardsons, we would love to hear from you. South Portland Historical Society can be reached at 207-767-7299, by email at [email protected], or by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at [email protected]

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