On the Corner, Among the Goliaths 45 Years and Counting

| 19 Oct 2015 | 02:39

Our Town is celebrate its 45th anniversary by profiling a neighborhood business that has been around longer than we have. Know of a local business that should be on our list? Email us at news@strausnews.com.

The retro signage spells an invitation to old-school, personalized service. It’s also a neon-lit reminder that drugstore chains didn’t always rule just about every city block.

But you’ll find the same staples at Goldberger’s Pharmacy, on the southeast corner of First Avenue and 65th Street since 1898, as you would at the Duane Reades, Rite Aids and CVS’s. Sunscreen, mouthwash, baby powder, shampoo, razors, Q-tips and, yes, condoms fill the pharmacy’s storefront window displays.

Three generations of Goldbergers owned and ran the pharmacy until the family sold it 101 years after it put down roots in a then-budding neighborhood of German, German-Jewish or Irish families. Samuel Hanna, 35, a pharmacist at nearby New York-Presbyterian Hospital, took ownership in 2011. He found the corner store a good fit. “Although I had to get used to being a retail pharmacist, it was a smooth transition, since we are such an established place,” he said.

Founding pharmacist Abraham Goldberger’s license, dated “May 25, 1921,” hangs on a back wall. A small tower of greeting cards stands near rows of stomach-upset aids. Bottles of shampoo share space with insoles. A basket of canes resides on the floor towards the back.

On a recent Friday afternoon, a child took one of the walking sticks and galloped around the narrow aisles, to the delight of store manager Bobby Killbrew.

Killbrew, 52, has worked at Goldberger’s for 33 years and has been the manager for 20. He takes pride in the store’s accurate deliveries, custom orders and selection. “For a small store, we try to keep a lot of items,” he said.

John Travers, 62, has been shopping and filling prescriptions at Goldberger’s for about 15 years, his wife for 25.

“The personal attention by Bobby and the staff makes you feel special and the pharmacist is extremely helpful offering advice ... extra value you don’t get in the chain pharmacies,” he said.

Marcy Adelman has been filling scripts at Goldberger’s on and off for 27 years; she also finds it a place to socialize. “Everyone from the neighborhood comes here. It’s funny, but I run into people here, more so than I do on the streets,” she said.

While pleased with Goldberger’s success, Killbrew laments the closing of other local businesses. He mentions a couple of beloved local spots that have disappeared from the neighborhood, such as ice cream shop Peppermint Park, which was replaced by a coffee chain about five years ago. He also recalls Maxwell Plum — the flashy restaurant and bar a block south that closed a generation ago.

Hanna enjoys the face-to-face interactions with customers, which differs from his work at the hospital. He says he’s charged a fair rent, and hopes to continue cultivating neighborhood customers.

Killbrew lives in Brooklyn, but after more than three decades has great affinity for the Upper East Side. “The people in the neighborhood depend on us and I love to help them,” he said, noting that he’s seen customers’ children become parents themselves. “We treat them like family.”