Wedged between Underground Printing and Rendez Vous Café, the white storefront of The Village Apothecary, an independent, family-owned drug store, has occupied 1112 S. University Ave. for the past 84 years.
Since 1930, the pharmacy — the word ‘apothecary’ hearkens back to ancient medical professionals — has changed ownership four times. Originally founded by Frederick Stegath, the store was called “Stegath’s Drug Store” for its first seven years until Stegath’s death in 1937. Oscar Carlson soon after bought the store and renamed it “Carlson Pharmacy.”
It wasn’t until Fred Kreye bought the pharmacy in 1964 that the store was given its current name. Ann Arbor resident Garry Turner currently owns the The Village Apothecary.
Turner said while the South University landscape has changed over the years, the store has remained relatively unchanged. When Kreye owned the Apothecary, there were gas stations, four drug stores and a movie theater on South University.
Turner said when he would shop at the Whole Foods on Washtenaw Avenue, there used to be a photograph hanging on the wall depicting Vietnam War demonstrations on South University.
“You see all the people in the street carrying signs and in the background you see this store,” he said. “It looks exactly the same in the front. It’s probably the only store on this street that hasn’t changed.”
Although it is no longer in use, Kreye used to operate a soda fountain and sell beer and wine in the store’s basement.
After 30 years of running the pharmacy, Kreye sold the Apothecary to Turner in 1994.
Now Turner manages the store and pharmacy with the Apothecary’s administrative assistant, Debra Cook, and a close-knit staff. Both Turner’s and Cook’s children have worked at the store, and family pictures line the wall in the back of the pharmacy.
Throughout its history, the Apothecary has built up a community of loyal customers, with some patrons supporting the store since the 1960s, Turner said. He said the personal relationships he is able to foster with his costumers keep them coming back.
“Typically they’re surprised at the service we can provide and how prompt we are and what we’re willing to do to help them out,” he said. “Which brings most of them back all the time.”
The store has also built a relationship with the University and its students. Cook said Turner has made the pharmacy more college-oriented since he bought the store by hiring students, carrying items for students and creating more personal relationships with them. She said he knows hundreds of his customers by their first names.
“People are our family,” Cook said. “The people that come in — they know us, we know them, they know our stories, we know theirs, they know our kids, we know theirs. It’s like home; there are times we’re here more than we are at home.”
Turner works with many students and faculty from the College of Pharmacy, some of whom work there their entire four years on campus. Turner usually takes on at least one University student intern in the Apothecary each semester.
“The store has just been here,” Turner said. “And I’m always here. I’m here every day.”