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2013 Village Award winner – Avignone Chemists

avignone sign
Wall sign probably from the 1950’s

Last week I wrote about one of my favorite spots in the South Village, the Sir Winston Churchill Square. If you took my advice and went  for a visit, you may have noticed an old painted billboard on the brick wall above the park.  This is for Avignone Pharmacy (now Avignone Chemists), another one of our 2013 Village Award winners, and a great little place to shop.

The first thing you notice is that this is not a chain pharmacy. Not too many neighborhoods still have independent pharmacies like Avignone. The wood frame exterior with its double door entrance and striped awning are so welcoming. A white glass light with a green cross hangs outside to let you know that this is a pharmacy (just like in Europe.)

Prescription book from the early 1900’s

In the store’s display window, and on display inside the store, you’ll find artifacts from the long history of Avignone Pharmacy, such as a large prescription book filled with scripts from the early part of the 20th century.  There are several apothecary jars, mortar and pestles, clocks and even some old radios and cameras, too. (All of the displayed items were discovered in the basement of Avignone Chemists during the renovations.)

Avignone has been at this location in the South Village, 226 Bleecker Street/ 281 Sixth Avenue, since 1929, when its original location, 59 MacDougal Street was demolished for the widening of Houston Street.  Owners Frank and Horatio Avignone built this two-story building for their pharmacy, and the building has not changed significantly since then. Frank (Francis Titus) Avignone was born in Italy, immigrated to the United States in 1890, and later served in WWI.

Frank Avignone’s son Carlo took over the business in 1956 and in 1974 sold it to Dominic Grassi. His son, Mike Grassi, assumed ownership in 1978, and worked there until 1991, when he was joined by Abe Lerner. From 1985 to 1999 the store was known as Avignone Love Health & Beauty.

Welcome to Avignone Chemists

In 2007, owners Abe Lerner, Andrew Fruchtman, and John Duffy completed renovations and changed the name of the store from Avignone Pharmacy to Avignone Chemists. Abe, Andrew, and John are extremely involved in the neighborhood and respectful of the history of their business . Avignone Chemists not only supports a team in the Greenwich Village Little League, they give generously to Our Lady of Pompeii Church  school, lend a hand to help in Sir Winston Churchill Square, and have been known to donate a band-aid or two to the volunteers in the park.

And they have had the same phone number since at least 1952!

Thanks to GVSHP Awards Committee member Judith Callet for this well-researched information.

There is still time to RSVP for this year’s Village Awards on June 17th. Please join us to help honor and celebrate all those who make Greenwich Village the special place it is.

4 responses to “2013 Village Award winner – Avignone Chemists

  1. I am the great-grandson of Orazio (Horatio) Avignone, who, with his brother Franceso (Frank) founded Avignone Drugs aka Avignone Pharmacy and now Avignone Chemists. I am the son of John J Avignone who is the son of John D Avignone who was Orazio’s son. Carlo, Charlie, was my great uncle.

    The original store was in Queens. The Village location was opened later. I can get more details if you’re interested. I have something else that may interest you. I have the original wedding poem Orazio wrote to his bride, Antonietta Delaurenti, dated the 30th of April, 1898, and titled ‘Alla Sposa,’, (To My Wife). It’s on 2 pages of fancy stationary beautifully hand lettered by Giuseppe Ruffino.

    If you’d like, I can send you a high resolution scan of the poem. I can also shed some light on properties my family owned in Five Points as well as background on the founding of Sardi’s. The original location was in a building owned by my family.

    Thank you for preserving this bit of the history of New York and my family history. You can contact me by email at john.avignone@gmail.com.


    John Avignone

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