Shopping at Ruthfred: an update


Well, the bank is gone. It just packed up and left a couple months ago.

I am sorry about this because Ruthfred Acres Shopping Center ought to have a bank.  This place—dating from the 1940s—is western Pennsylvania’s first strip mall. In 2009 I wrote a blog called Shopping at Ruthfred (where?). It was one of the most popular things I ever posted. I figured it was time for an update.

Without seeing Ruthfred, it is hard to visualize how tiny it  is. You could walk from one end of it to the other in about a minute. Yet in that minute you would pass a grocery store, a three-story hardware store (it had to expand vertically), a deli, a dry cleaner, a pharmacy, and the offices of a lawyer and a primary care doctor.

The pharmacy  is new. The old place, O’Briens, had always the look of a business waiting to be sold. Last year the business was taken over by a local chain called Spartan Pharmacy. The place is light, warm, and inviting—not an easy look for a drugstore to pull off.

At the front are an overstuffed couch and comfortable chairs. More candles for sale in proportion to its size than I have ever seen in any drugstore. One line of candles is made by a company called A Cheerful Giver. Burt’s Bees are there. So is Sarris candy.

The primary care doctor next door to Spartan happens to be mine, which is how I found Ruthfred in the first place. (An insurance change necessitated a change in doctors.)  Although she practices thoroughly modern medicine, her office is plain. Friendly and welcoming, but plain. Her office has imbued character from its surroundings.

The last time I was there, my doctor mentioned that when the deli next door makes macaroni and cheese, everyone can smell it cooking through the wall. This is Ruthfred. “You  can talk to me” this office says. “This is life.”

I hope my doctor is never forced to move to an isolated healthcare citadel—a place a sane person would flee from. No one in all of Ruthfred’s history has ever wanted to flee from it. I would bet money on this.

In 2o12, Ruthfred Market won a Tribune  Reader’s Choice Gold Award for “favorite grocery store.”

How to heal, how not to

Last May I sprained my left wrist twisting off a tight jar lid (or maybe partially tore a ligament—at this point it is unclear). However, I did nothing but forge ahead, clutching my to-do agenda tightly, as Scrooge clutched his money and hurried past the things and people who cried for his attention.

I ignored the chain of pain and disability I was forging by my actions as one month turned into two, which turned into four, which turned into six.

Spring flowers were blooming when I injured my wrist. Snow flurries were drifting down when I faced up to my stupidity in neglecting it.

I get a massage once a month at Ahhh…a Massage—an investment in wellness I do not neglect.  Margie Webb, who was a nurse for 30 years before she became a massage therapist, recommended The Physical Therapy Center.

I was lucky. They are in my insurer’s network. And they are good.

So now, right before Christmas, I find myself finding the time to go for twice-weekly sessions involving a heat treatment with parrafin wax, ultrasound, and  manual manipulation  of my wrist. I have twice-daily exercises at home. I wrap the wrist up in an Ace bandage during the day.

The people at the PT center are pleasant, and the tempo is unhurried. There are a couple of therapy dogs, Addision and Bear.

It is restful to go there. Rather than being busy, I sit around with my hand encased in warm wax and wrapped in a plastic bag and a towel, accepting healing. Accepting the everyday grace of healing.

Shopping at Ruthfred (where?)


You have to like a development called Ruthfred Acres. Builder Fred Brown and his wife Ruth (thus the name) built it in the 1940s. It happens to be home to western Pennsylvania’s first strip mall, called Ruthfred Acres Shopping Center.

This shopping center is tiny. But it contains—as I suspect it always has contained—useful abundance. Ruthfred Food Market, ACE Miller Hardware, Supreme Cleaners, the Family Deli, Valentine’s Full-Service Salon, O’Brien’s Pharmacy. You can visit a primary care doctor, a dentist, a lawyer, even a seamstress. Adjacent is Young’s Auto Service. Across the street is Valero gas. Also across the street is Ferruzza Hair Centre, where a billboard says, “Welcome Back, Ron Baker, Master Barber.”

Ruthfred Lutheran Church is there, too.

hardware2Yesterday I stopped at Ruthfred Food Market, which was busy. In search of hand sanitizer and other miscellaneous items, I saw unexpected things: shoe laces and shoe polish, RIT dye for cloth, a candy thermometer, canning equipment. Toy handcuffs. A yoyo.

Judging from the people waiting six deep, the market has an excellent deli. But I went next door to the Family Deli to get “Our own baked ham.” People were waiting there, too.

The small satisfaction I feel when indulging in the great American consumer pastime—pretending that I save money by buying sale merchandise I don’t need—goes up in smoke compared with the satisfaction of buying useful stuff at Ruthfred Acres Shopping Center. I’ll be back.

The only pharmacy I've ever seen with a weathervane

The only pharmacy I’ve ever seen with a weathervane