By Alexander Houston
We stood in his air conditioned store the S&A Cleaners at 4935 Frankford Avenue. I was there to interview the busy proprietor, Herb Frayer, who owns and operates the business. It is a handsome 3 story corner property. A customer walks in. I will call him Mr X, as I did not get his name. I continued to ask questions of Mr Frayer, and soon a lively 3-way conversation ensued.
We spoke of many things, but mostly of our beloved community. Mr. Frayer and Mr. X are both Frankford born and raised, and ever since I moved into the area about 9 years ago I have become an ardent community supporter, but my curiosity has been piqued. What was Frankford 30-40 years ago? What is it now, and why is it what it is now?
Mr. Herb Frayer’s dry cleaning business has been a constant in the community for 14 years. He started as a delivery boy for a cleaning business and he never looked back. He told me he has always envisioned having his own business, but he did not stop there. He has expanded and diversified. He sells clothing, footwear and jewelry along with his tailoring and dry cleaning business.
But then I got to my questions:
AH: Please tell me what this community was like in your youth?
HF: It was a vibrant community with many thriving businesses. All daily needs could be purchased on the avenue under the El. Yes, it was a bustling corridor.
AH: How has the community changed?
HF: Well today Frankford is much more diverse and that is a good thing. I remember a time when as an African American it was not safe for me to walk the avenue. That has changed now, however along with diversity came poverty, crime, and the drug trade.
AH: I see a large Asian community in the area. Would talk a little about what that means to you.
HF: I think that the large Asian population is good for Frankford. These folk are, for the most part, hardworking people. They have opened many businesses along the avenue where once stood vacant properties. So yes, this influx is good for the community.
Now during much of this conversation Mr. X vigorously nodded his head in agreement. However it was the next line of questioning that really stirred both him and Mr. Frayer.
AH: So what improvements would you like to see in Frankford?
HF: I love Frankford. It is my home. I was born, raised and educated here, and here is what needs to happen. We need to see more unity, more togetherness. Young people need to realize that anything worth having and keeping will not come easily. Work hard, work, smart have self respect and respect for others. It is all about Dignity and Self respect.
This discussion kept getting better and it was clear to me that Mr. Frayer and his customer were just warming up.
AH: How did younger generations go off the track?
HF: I think it is the lack of role models. We must tell young men in our society to be men, to support their families, to work hard, to be productive members of that society. Again, what is needed is Self Respect, Dignity and Responsibility
HF: There is a far deeper malady in our system. It is the diminishment of the American dream, for when hopes and dreams fade for America’s youth other nefarious modes of livelihood take root. Another problem is the gradual demise of solid and stable family structures. It gets back to what I said earlier. We must teach the importance of Self Respect, Dignity and the importance of Taking our Responsibilities both collectively and individually.
Herb Frayer’s customer left the shop, but I am sure of 2 things. He like me was inspired. Second, while we may not have solved all of the community’s problems we came to better understand our place and responsibility in it.
I thought about Herb as I motored back to the office. TRUELY, the dream had not died for him. Not only has he diversified his business thus offering more services and products for members of the community, he provides employment for a small work force in the Frankford. He continues to dream and strive. He owns and manages several rental properties for as he told me, “I plan to have my properties work for me instead of me working for my properties.” Small businesses are good for America as are dreamers and doers. All the while, people like Herb not only provide a good example for the American youth, but it is men and women like Herb Frayer who can help keep the American dream alive. They provide opportunity for themselves and others. They make us All proud!