In 1911, Charles F. Freihofer and his sons were traveling from Philadelphia, where he had built a successful baking company, to Montreal to inspect and purchase some new ovens. The train trip to Canada involved a layover in Troy, New York, and during their stop Freihofer learned that most of the women in the city did not have enough time to bake at home. Most women in the area were working in Troy's primary industry: the manufacture of shirt collars. Freihofer's sons decided that this opportunity was too good to pass up, and decided to open a new bakeshop in Troy. This was the beginning of the Freihofer's, one of the most beloved icons of the Capitol District.
On March 12, 1913, the Freihofer Vienna Baking Company opened their first bakery in the Lansingburgh neighborhood of Troy. That morning, the residents of Troy found free loaves of bread on their doorstop, along with information on Freihofer's home delivery for five cents a loaf. Business boomed, and Freihofer's quickly expanded the operation into bakeries in Albany and Schenectady by the end of 1915. The company soon acquired the Riverside Club, which was next to the Lansingburgh bakery, to hold their corporate offices.
Freihofer's organized home delivery routes for their goods. Goods could be ordered by telephone, through the cart driver, or simply by placing a Freihofer's sign in a house window. Horse drawn carts would deliver the daily bread in the early morning, and then run the route again in the afternoon to deliver cakes, pies, and freshly ground coffee. These carts became fixtures of the community, with local residents often giving the horse treats as the cart came by. Freihofer's horse cart deliveries were replaced by truck deliveries over time, with the last horse cart route being converted to truck in 1962. Ten years later, even the truck routes were discontinued, in favor of local grocery store distribution, and the opening of a few bakery outlet stores.
Besides providing baked goods to homes in the area, Freihofer's also contributed to the community at large. Families in need would often receive delivers from the Freihofer's cart at no charge. The company paid for the production of an evening children's television program on WRGB. Called "The Freddie Freihofer Show", the show ran from 1948 to 1966. Freihofer's also started the Freihofer's Run for Women in 1979, which consists of a 5k road race through downtown Albany. The race is the largest women's race in the United States, with competitors from around the world.
The Freihofer family sold the company to the New Jersey based Best Foods Corporation in 1987, which led to a restructuring of the company. The bakery in Troy was closed down, as well as the now redundant offices in the Riverside Club. The bakeries in Albany and Schenectady became distribution points for the larger company, with all the actual baking being relocated to sites in New Jersey.
The old Freihofer Bakery and Riverside Club in Troy were sold to the Eckerd chain of convenience stores in 2000. Eckerd proposed tearing down the bakery and the club, and constructing one of their stores on the property. A local group called the Historic Action Network sued to keep Eckerd's from tearing down the buildings, and won. Currently, the Historic Action Network is working with Eckerd to find a new owner for the buildings that will restore, rather than demolish, the structures.