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Published: Thursday, 2/9/2006

Grocery owner loved the public and the business

Richard V. Smith, 85, the third-generation - and last - owner of an East Toledo grocery called by loyal customers "the little Tiedtke's," died Tuesday in St. Charles Mercy Hospital of congestive heart failure.

The grocery on Starr Avenue was named for his grandfather, E.J. Smith, who founded it in 1884.

Chain supermarkets took their toll in the late 20th century. But Richard Smith closed what was then E.J. Smith Food Fair in 1979 because he and his wife, Marjorie, had health problems.

Mr. Smith began working in the store as a boy, and his responsibilities increased through the years. His wife was a store cashier, took phone orders, and stocked shelves.

The store offered a wide variety of goods, and loyal eastsiders compared it favorably to the well-known downtown Toledo store, Tiedtke's.

Mr. Smith rose early to visit farmers and buy their produce for the store, as his father, Harold, had. Butchers were on staff, and Mr. Smith did some meat cutting.

"They had a big walk-in freezer [with] the whole cow hanging in the freezer as you walked in," his daughter, Sharon Herman, said. "They carved all their meat fresh. My dad started catering - weddings and parties - and he cooked all the food."

The store offered credit to regular customers, keeping track of accounts in ledgers, and delivered groceries long after other stores had stopped such services. And Mr. Smith often worked more than 80 hours a week.

"He had a love for the public," his daughter said. "He had a love for the business."

His dedication to the family business and pleasant personality contributed to the store's success, his brother, Bill, said.

"Everybody got along with him," his brother said. "He did a lot for the community, taking care of the people around there who didn't have a heck of a lot of money."

After he closed the store, he worked for several years at Schorling's 5 Star Market.

Mr. Smith grew up in East Toledo and was a 1938 graduate of Central Catholic High School. He was a Navy veteran of World War II, serving stateside.

As a matter of personal philosophy, he did not shop in chain grocery stores or eat in chain restaurants, and family members promised they'd do likewise.

He was a member of the Arthur Daly American Legion Post.

He and his wife married Nov. 22, 1940. She died Dec. 5, 1982.

Surviving are his daughter, Sharon Herman; brother, William Smith; two grandsons, and three great-granddaughters.

The body will be in Eggleston Meinert Pavley Funeral Home, Oregon Chapel, after 2 p.m. today, with Arthur Daly American Legion Post services at 7 tonight in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow in St. Thomas Aquinas Church, of which he was a longtime member.

The family suggests tributes to Central Catholic High School or the Clay High School Boosters.



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