I like cash. I also like bazaars. Not as in a carnival in a church parking lot where you can win cheap stuffed animals. But a bazaar as in a wild and magical and grand experience where you could get anything in the world with no expense spared. Complete with fire dancers and silk flags and magic and and gypsies and exotic music and wild animals and piles of cash and coins and precious metals. Think of it….a bazaar. How wild. Anything could happen. (I have no idea what an American bazaar really is all about. I am pretty sure it is just a marketplace, but since it originated in the middle east, I imagine it to be very exotic and wondrous. This is just what I imagine, and make no claim to this having any real truth.)
William Frear also liked cash and bazaars, and Troy, and his last name. (Right away, we have a lot in common.) So, he decided to open a top notch department store in the heart of Troy ingeniously named: Frear’s Troy Ca$h Bazaar. Now, I am no historian, but I do know that Frear started his career as a salesman in John Flagg’s store at 12 Fulton when he first came to Troy around 1850, and he obviously worked it. Someone with a career like his doesn’t go from mediocre salesman to mega cash bazaar owner/millionaire without knowing a thing or two about marketing. As someone who spends her days in a marketing mindset, I can tell you that Frear put some real thought into this name. Or, maybe it just came to him one night…as great things sometimes do to great minds. Maybe, as they quietly read in separate chairs by the toasty fire, he abruptly stands and declares to his wife, “GREAT SCOTT, I have it! We’ll name it…… FREAR’sssss TROY CA$H BAZAAR!!” She stares blankly…as she is growing tiredddd of his grandiose wild cashy schemes. Oh, William. Always bursting with ideas and energy. OR. Martha’s face lights up, the corners of her smile turning up like a sly fox as she imagines lavishing herself in wild animal skins and sweet smelling powders. All while rolling around on a bear skin rug much bigger than even the size of 10 whole bears.
I think you have to be a sort of character to name your store FREAR’S TROY CASH BAZAAR. It’s so large and magnificent…the name, the building, some sort of steel infrastructure clad in ornately carved white marble- and it is ORNATE. There is even a super cool compass built in. It’s my favorite building in Troy and my favorite name of any store of all time. Walking down the street and seeing the Frear building makes me feel like a better human being in a better place, than I was even the block before.
So, Frear was living large, taking up a lot of space, having a nuts amount of energy, and not exactly looking to fade into the background. I like to think he would have came to the South End Tavern with me on a Tuesday night, even if I wore my fur vest. (My “fur” is sadly NOT from Frear’s, and is most likely made of dog hair. Not the kind of Cruella deville dog hair where the dog died just to make fur. This fine garment feels more like the dog was already dead in a Malaysian alley… that happened to be close to a Forever 21 sweatshop.)
Back to the naming. An ordinary person could have just named it Frear’s. I mean….someoneeeeeeee else did something SUSPICIOUSLY close and happened to make a modest living off of it. If you could swing it, you know you would have been hitting up FTCB for your fine leather goods, capes, a present for your gram, a top hat for your man, a treat for your mistress, etc. Often, as I walk by this magnificent building I imagine what I could pop in for. I imagine what I could have bought in 1890, 1920, and 1950. NO matter the year, for some reason I just assume I’d be greeted by men wearing only tails and the skins of Bengal tigers, people giving me delicious cakes, and grand chandeliers that made you feel like you were a pretty big deal. In most of my visits, I imagine I’d peruse such fine goods such as rich mahogany, french perfumes, leather and lace, as well as common home goods like…chairs. I cannot be positive, as I was never there, but I have a feeling that FTCB was a real sight to see, a destination, a place to be. As for the cakes, I am sure that is also another thing I just made up.
When reading about FTCB, almost all of the language describes FREAR to be a giant retailer of dry goods. I actually read that it was the largest merchant in any city in the US with a comparable population to Troy at the time, which was many times the population that it has now. People came from hundreds of miles to shop at Frear’s for all the best dry goods. Everyone came to Frear’s. From all of the cities, villages, and even way up over the hills and far away into Vermont, Mass, and way up north in NY. What are these dry goods, some may wonder? “Dry goods are products such as textiles, ready-to-wear clothing, and sundries.  In U.S. retailing, a dry goods store carries consumer goods that are distinct from those carried by hardware stores and grocery stores, though “dry goods” as a term for textiles has been dated back to 1742 in England or even a century earlier. Dry goods can be carried by stores specializing only in those products (a type of specialty store), or may be carried by a general store or a department store.” So, clothes. Dry goods are clothes and probably fabrics and things to makes clothes. I was thinking there was more to it than that. Let me know if you have any other ideas.
In its heyday, 400 people worked at FTCB. I read that Frear had pictures of each of his employees. That’s pretty nice, I think. The annual cash sales of the retail departments were over a million bucks per year. Not too shabby for over 100 years ago….considering the most expensive fanciest items in the catalog were like 19 dollars capes made in France. That’s a LOT of sales.
Today, there are some state offices in the Frear Buiding. And I’m not sure what else. Frankly, I don’t want to know. Anytime I go by, it’s closed and no one is coming in or out. It’s not anything even close to a bazaar. I know that the original marble staircase still exists, and I should go in and see it. But I think I like to keep what I have going on in my imagination the way it is. Seeing state offices just isn’t going to jive with my grand bazaar. Like the ghost ad that I adore, I think I’ll remain just outside.