As Hegedorns in Webster closes, now-grown-up kids get back elementary artwork

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WEBSTER, N.Y. — An iconic Webster grocery store is closing its doors in just a few weeks. Hegedorns Market has been serving the community since 1953 but will permanently close at the end of June.

As the business ties up its loose ends, a few community members are reuniting some of the store’s artwork with its creators.

Thirty-three years ago, fourth and fifth graders at Klem North Elementary participated in a class art project, spurred on by one student’s dad, Matthew Frank. Frank worked in the maintenance department at Hegedorns for over 20 years. In 1990, he found himself with several ceiling panels and a daughter, Carrie, that loved art.

“One side is damaged, I think that’s what got me thinking,” he said. “I had a lot of these panels, what could I use them for?”

He and Carrie’s art teacher decided to have her class make grocery-store-themed paintings on those panels. The works were then hung up over the checkout for customers and cashiers to enjoy as they got their groceries.

“It was great. It was a great project for the kids, they got a big kick out of it,” he said.

The 10 and 11-year-olds trudged through Hegedorns, picking out products that they would put on display. The class even settled on a theme: all the products would be flying, because they were going to be above customers.

“We were in the space age and everything — they had fun with them,” Hegedorns Produce Manager Fred Palmer said, laughing.

Palmer had only just started when the project got installed, but he said he’s appreciated seeing them for the past few decades. And the customers did, too.

“Oh it was always fascinating, you’d say something, ‘Oh Carrie did that,’” Carrie’s mother, Cindy Frank, said. “You got sorta used to seeing it, ’cause that’s my regular grocery store.”

Once Carrie’s parents told her the store was closing, she asked her mom about getting her tile back. Carrie’s tile will get a new life as part of the ceiling in her son’s tree house — a fort that her father built a few years ago.

“There’s not any monetary value but there’s a lot of sentimental value to people,” Palmer said about the tiles. “And I think with Hegedorns’ place in the community — they’ll end up having a piece of the store even though we’ll be closed.”

Palmer has been working to help reunite the panels with their owner. He says of the roughly 30 panels, about half have been claimed. Most were completed in groups of two or three, so Palmer is hoping at least one former student will come forward for each.

“It’s a nice thing we did. Didn’t generate sales, we didn’t do it to do that,” Palmer said. “Mr. Hegedorns was really involved in the community — this just gave us something else so we could be involved in the community.”

A painting of a box of Triples flying through the sky. Triples was a cereal brand discontinued in the 90s.