In a city overrun by Duane Reades, sterile and bland, walking into Lascoff's Pharmacy on Lexington and 82nd is like being in The Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black-and-white to brilliant Technicolor.
The venerable Forgotten New York tackled Lascoff's last year, reporting: "Pharmacist J. Leon Lascoff (1867-1943) emigrated from Russia (he was from today's Poland) in 1892 and opened an apothecary in a brownstone building on the SW corner of Lexington Avenue and East 82nd in 1899."
Everywhere you look in Lascoff's there's something fascinating to see. Wooden cabinets hold ancient amber bottles stoppered with corks and labeled in vanished typefaces: Dogwood, Oak Bark, Soda Mint Granules. Drawers are stuffed with herbs and labeled with mystical-sounding names like Verbascum.
More cabinets display the pharmacy's history, including photos that go all the way back to the days when medicinal leeches came in stoneware jars. Yes, leeches:
You can't get leeches at Lascoff's anymore, but you can find plenty of odd products, like interesting soaps and combs from far-flung places, as well as the usual stuff you get at Duane Reade. Here's something to think about: What if, instead of DRs, every corner in the city had a Lascoff's?
See all my photos of Lascoff's here