Brooklyn Square Pharmacies

The Broadhead Building: South Main Pharmacy at corner of S. Main and Harrison.
The Broadhead Building: South Main Pharmacy at corner of S. Main and Harrison.

Article Contributed by
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist

Before the advent of modern pharmacies, such as Rite Aid and CVS, old Brooklyn Square offered residents on the south side of Jamestown two pharmacies: South Main Pharmacy at 39 South Main Street and Harvey and Carey Drug Store at 7-9 South Main.

When I was growing up in the 1940s, South Main Pharmacy was a staple in my family’s history among Brooklyn Square businesses. The drug store was housed in the southeast corner of the Broadhead Building on the corner of South Main and Harrison. The pharmacist was Mr. Spera, whose name those of Italian heritage might associate with “speranza”—hope. After all, when one is sick, the hope of getting better is uppermost in one’s mind. (My father often referred to Mr. Spera as Doctor Spera, adding more beneficence to the small, bespectacled, white-coated man who was trusted with the serious trade of getting people well.)

As I recall, the pharmacy was a rather austere place with a stone floor, a few heavy wooden chairs where customers could sit and wait while a prescription was being filled, and shelves filled with anything from toothpaste to medical necessities for home nursing. A small stash of cosmetics was available, mainly face powder, lipsticks, and bottles of fragrance. But by far the most fascinating thing about that pharmacy for me was the array of large apothecary bottles with ornate stoppers filled with brightly colored liquids that were behind glass doors that fronted the tall mahogany cabinets mounted high on the wall that were just beyond the entrance. What could those mysterious red, blue, and green shimmering liquids be used for? I think they served no other purpose than decoration and perhaps were a throwback to earlier days when such bottles held tinctures or medicines that were brewed and bottled by old apothecaries. But, no matter what, in my young mind, those bottles stood for trust!

South Main Pharmacy was in business from 1930 to 1969. During some of its later years, the pharmacy was owned by George Barone, pharmacist, who shared his duties with Bea Helfrey. Bob Parasiliti was the store manager.

Harvey and Carey Drug Store was located on the corner of South Main and Taylor Streets. It was one of two pharmacies by that name; the other was located at 101 W. Third Street. The Brooklyn Square Harvey and Carey was very unlike South Main Pharmacy. First of all, it was bright and well lit, making it very inviting. Its shelves, which held cosmetics, lotions, fragrances, over-the-counter medication, first aid supplies, magazines, candy and gum, were well stocked, and products were within easy reach. In addition, Harvey and Carey had a soda fountain where one could order anything from a Coke or a milkshake to a sandwich, a slice of pie, and a variety of ice cream sodas and sundaes. The fountain area was to the right of the entrance, lined with no-back red leather and chrome stools, with one or two high-backed booths in that area. It also had a public phone booth.

Dolores Anderson Mitcham, who wrote an article about Harvey and Carey Drug Store for my third book, Remembering Brooklyn Square: The 1930s to The 1960s, worked at the popular soda fountain when she was a high school student for fifty-two and a half cents an hour, later raised to fifty-five cents! When she wasn’t busy at the fountain, she used to wait on customers at the front counter selling candy, gum, cigars, and cigarettes. Joe Wolinski, who was the pharmacist, and Ruby Vandenburg were the store managers. Some of Dolores’s co-workers that she remembers were Lois Cook (Weiss), Ann Latona, Rose Ingrao, and Al Lindberg.

Harvey and Carey Christmas party, 1947. (L to R): Joe Wolinsky, pharmacist/manager, Ann Latona, asst. pharmacist; Ruby Vandenburg, pharmacist/asst. manager; Dolores Anderson (Mitcham); Rose Ingrao; Al Lindberg; Lois Cook. Photo Courtesy of Lois Cook Weiss

The location of the Brooklyn Square Harvey and Carey Drug Store has a long tenant history. From the early 1920s to the mid-1930s, the Palace of Sweets, a confectionary store run by the Hennas brothers, was known for its homemade candy and ice cream and the fact that it won the then Roosevelt Square Merchants Association award for the best dressed window in 1923—all because of a bouquet of candy roses! The Garden Restaurant occupied that location for about a year, and then Harvey and Carey moved in. During its final years that 7-9 South Main Street address was occupied by Chili Auto and Home Stores.