Monday, December 10, 2007

Block Drug Stores

In the sea of ever-multiplying Duane Reades, Rite-Aids, and Walgreens, it’s nice to know there are still a few independent pharmacies surviving in the city.

For the East Village, on the corner of 2nd and 6th, there’s Block Drug Stores, a.k.a. Second Avenue Chemists. Established in 1885, it has been run by the Palermo family since 1962. It’s a tiny shop with a big, gorgeous neon sign, a pressed-tin ceiling, and personalized, knowledgeable service.

They also have an antique coin-operated scale by the door that comes complete with a metal hook designated, “Hang Parcel Here,” so the weight of your parcel (a nice vanished word, by the way) doesn’t skew your results.

I went into Block the other day to get a jumbo container of Tums. While waiting for Carmine Palermo to fill her prescription, a gregarious older woman introduced herself as Lucille and wished me Happy Holidays. She then proceeded to pick lint from the sleeve of my coat.

“What have I got there,” I asked, “a little schmutz?”

Lucille laughed, “It’s lint. Look at this! This is a nice pea-coat, you don’t want lint all over. Turn around.”

I obediently did as I was told and Lucille went to town, picking and brushing with her fingertips every last bit of lint from my coat. “I just can’t help myself,” she chuckled.

In the front window of Block is a sign that asks, “Unhappy with chain stores?” For me, the answer is yes, I am unhappy with chain stores. They don't have pressed-tin ceilings, efficient service, or 100+ years spent developing a unique personality. And, not for nothing, they also don’t have compulsive and friendly old ladies sitting around just waiting for a chance to de-lint your coat.


Sally Tomato said...

Aw, I don't have lint pickers at my pharmacy. Lucky duck.

tenpenny said...

I love that place and that sign.

Anonymous said...

I am delighted to learn Block Drugs is still there. 40 years ago, I fell asleep while sunbathing. I woke completely crisp. I hobbled around the corner to Block Drugs. The pharmacist suggested a bottle of Bowers (?) solution that dramatically helped reduce the swelling from the sunburn. He was kind and even a couple of years later took me to the opera. I fell asleep there too. But the neighborhood, caring attitude was valued and sorely missed in the chains that are sprouting like weeds from the High Line all over Chelsea & the village.

Anonymous said...

I immediately noticed Block Drugs when I moved into an apartment on Second Avenue a few months ago. I've never actually been inside (knock on wood), but just love that old neon sign. It'll be a sad day when they replace it (and you just know someone's gonna make 'em do it).

Anonymous said...

I doubt they will remove or replace the sign. The building is in a Historic District, and they would need Landmark Preservation Commission approval.

laura said...

l i lived aross the street from "block" from 1968 to 1970. (2nd & 5th, corner). passed it everyday. @ that time the only chain we had was whelans drug stores, one was on 6th ave & w. 8th st, i never went in there. we didnt have box stores, as bigger wasnt necessarily better. when you know the owner & the steady help (usually family), you get great service. you also have a more normal kind of day. manhattan & the rest of the world changed socially when chains were introduced. transient help, no one cares. employees from far away areas, no sense of neigborhood. even increse in crime. does "block" own the building? how can you explain why they are still there?