Retro pharmacy

Brian Merlos
The Village Apothecary is located on South University Avenue. It is the oldest business on that street. It first opened shortly after the turn of the 20th century and used to feature a soda fountain. (JENNIFER KRON/Daily)

If you’re looking for an old fashioned pharmacy, you may be in luck: The Village Apothecary on South University Avenue is definitely old school. In fact, the pharmacy has been in Ann Arbor longer than Michigan Stadium. According to owner Garry Turner, the store first opened in the 1910s, but it’s been so long that even he wasn’t sure exactly what year it opened.

Although Turner has only owned the pharmacy since 1994, he said he still tries to run it with a customer-friendly attitude reminiscent of a simpler time.

“I just tell all the help to treat everybody who walks in like its your aunt and uncle” Turner said.

Although Turner strives to create an old-fashioned sense of community, the physical store is pretty modern. You won’t find antique Coke bottles or homemade beef jerky in the aisles. Instead you’ll find Orbit gum and Pepsi Max.

But beneath the main floor – behind a door blocking customer use – is a lasting link to the store’s historic past.

An abandoned dry kitchen – essentially a kitchen without plumbing – still resides in the basement collecting dust, Turner said. The kitchen was used to prepare sandwiches and the like when the pharmacy used to have the symbol of a classic retro pharmacy – a soda fountain.

Alas, soda jerks no longer greet you at The Village Apothecary door with a refreshing egg cream or Vanilla Coke. The pharmacy hasn’t had an operating soda fountain in about 40 years.

Debra Cook, the store’s manager, said the store was an exception to the faceless superstores that have taken over the pharmacy business.

“I think we really care about the people who come in here, whereas at other establishments, you’re just a number,” Cook said. “The customers are just like family to me and they relate to me like I’m their family.”

Grant Jeffries, a senior in the School of Architecture, works part-time at the pharmacy and echoed Cook’s sentiments about the comfortable, familial environment.

“The older people who work in the store are like our bosses, but we joke around with them a lot,” Jeffries said.

The pharmacy may have been around longer than your parents – and probably your grandparents, too – but Cook insists that it hasn’t lost its character or flair.

“I’d say we’re the oldest, but we’re also the hippest,” Cook said.

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