Since 1885, a drug store has stood at the corner of 2nd Avenue and 6th Street. Although it has had various owners over the years, members of the Palermo family have owned the store since 1962. Ever since, the family has worked to provide the community knowledgeable and personalized service in the sale of prescription and over-the-counter medicines and health and beauty aids. Block Drug Store will be presented with a 2013 Village Award at GVSHP’s Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony on Monday, June 17.
Owned by the Levine family since the early 1900s (that family stills owns the building to this day), the store was sold in 1942 to Fred Slatzkin. It was then that the store became a Block Drug franchise. By the early sixties, Carmine Palermo Sr., who had been working for the chain Whelan’s Drug Store, came to Block as a partner. Palermo describes the neighborhood then as “Ukrainian, Polish, Italian, Jewish, Hispanic and ‘artist.’” In the more than 60 years the Palermo’s have been owners, the store has changed with the times. In the late sixties, they did a brisk late-night business of sales of candy to patrons of the nearby Filmore East. When the health hazards of cigarettes became clear, they were no longer stocked. And of course now the store is an independent business.
Carmine Palermo Jr. and his pharmacist wife Beth took over officially in 1994, although Palermo Sr. worked in the store as late as 2002. Nominations for the store talked about the little touches that make it such an important part of the neighborhood – extending credit to long time customers who are a little short, contacting doctors for you when a prescription runs low, finding and stocking the health and beauty aids their customers are looking for, and, last but certainly not least, knowing each and every customer’s health history. Now, Block Drug is opening Block Vision Care right next store – a sign that Block will be around for a long time to come.
For many, the neon sign on the façade of Block Drug is just as important as the service and family that exists inside. Iconic, the sign dates from 1945 and contains orange and pink neon. While the sign is only lit for a few hours each evening, we hope it will grace the storefront for many more years.
We also hope to see you at GVSHP’s 2013 Annual Meeting as we honor Block Drug Store and five other awardees who are being honored for their contributions to the Village. Be sure to stay tuned to Off the Grid for our upcoming posts about all the 2013 Village award winners.