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Ansonia Pharmacy, currently located on 6th Avenue between 10th and 11th street, has been serving Greenwich Village and beyond since 1933. In its current iteration, it has thrived under the ownership of Manisha and Upendra Solanki, who acquired it in 1995. They’ve strived to maintain the pharmacy as kind of a throwback, in the best of ways — evocative of a time when everyone went to neighborhood pharmacies, and these were a key foundation of the community.
Manisha has been connected to pharmacies her entire life. As a teenager, she worked along with her mother at her father’s pharmacy in Ozone Park. After marrying Upendra, she and her husband spent a stint employed by a pharmaceutical chain in southern California, before deciding to come back to New York and open a pharmacy of their own. Following the guidance of Manisha’s father, they settled on Ansonia Pharmacy.
It did not take long for the couple to build on their business’ ties to the neighborhood. As one of the few pharmacies that at the time served patients with AIDS, Ansonia developed a loyal clientele. Recalling customers who passed away back then as well as those who survived and still visit the pharmacy, Manisha describes those early years as both sad and uplifting.
Ansonia also forged ties with the artist community early on by running the Ansonia Window Show. The pharmacy donated the display windows of its original location on Sixth Avenue at 10th Street free of charge for professionally curated six-week-long exhibitions, featuring the work of new artists. Manisha saw the program as a way to support both the artists and the local community. Unfortunately, Ansonia lost its lease in 2005 and was forced to move to its current storefront, which, despite best efforts, could no longer accommodate the show.
Because of the personal approach of its owners and staff, Ansonia has enjoyed longstanding patronage by its customers, some of whom travel from other boroughs to visit the pharmacy. The majority have been coming to Ansonia for a ten years or more. Over time, the Solankis, their other pharmacists, Sarin Koo and Anita Lee, and the rest of the staff have developed a personal relationship with many of them. Manisha puts it this way:
“Do I know many of my customers…? But of course. Yeah. Most of them know my children, know my children’s background. My kids grew up in the pharmacy, so they remember them as toddlers.. So yeah. I have a very good relationship with my customers. We are very fortunate to have some amazing people who we’ve met along the way and who continue to be with us… let’s put it that way.”
Examples of the special care with which Ansonia treats its clientele abound. Convalescing customers get calls from the pharmacy to see how they are doing. A homebound elderly patient enjoys the assistance of Manisha’s staff in running small errands when he orders medication. Once, a broken-limbed customer, having responded that she could sure use some ice cream, was surprised when some was delivered, courtesy of Manisha. Ansonia’s staff has even picked up chicken soup for customers who haven’t felt well. Asked whether there has ever been any reciprocity, Manisha does not hesitate:
“Oh my god, we get a lot more than chicken soup. We get gifts galore, boxes of food, lots of sweets throughout the year, especially during the holidays. We do get recognized. And it’s very sweet when that happens.”
Last year was a challenging one for Ansonia, as it was for many small retailers. Business declined as much of the city shut down and many residents left town. Nonetheless, thanks to the commitment of its staff (which the Solankis retained in its entirety), Ansonia managed to remain open throughout, offering lengthy consultations over the phone as well as citywide delivery of medication (along with a token gift, candy or a beauty product sample). They also fielded frequent calls from customers who wanted to check up on everyone in the store. Some of those who had left the city would still come in once a month to have the prescriptions filled. Others called to apologize for having to transfer their prescription to an out-of-town pharmacy, a gesture that moved Manisha:
“I don’t think you would normally hear stories like that. Because what did they owe to us?”
Much has changed for New York City pharmacies and much has changed in Greenwich Village since the Solankis took over Ansonia. Online retailers and chains have saturated the market. Meanwhile, many local small businesses have shuttered, first, because of skyrocketing rents and then, because of the pandemic. Nonetheless, Manisha remains confident in the competitiveness of her business (“The people who know us, even if they go and try the competition, they tend to come back.”) and in the outlook for her neighborhood and its businesses, several of which she has come to regard as family. She singles out Barney’s Hardware, on 6th Ave and 11th Street, and her neighbors at Jerri’s Cleaners and Village Vintner, with whom she bonded during the pandemic.
Ansonia offers a full array of pharmaceutical products and services. Despite its modest size, it also stocks, as a result of customer requests and past experiments, several select lines of European beauty and body care products, such as Bronnley, Bioderma, Pré de Provence and Klorane. A personal highlight of my conversation with Manisha was her response to the question of whether they carried Caswell Massey soap, which I find hard to locate in the city.
“You do?! Do you have the almond one? That’s my favorite.”
“Oh yeah. That’s our number one seller.”
For all these reasons and more, Ansonia Pharmacy is our May, 2021 Business of the Month. Stop by at 446 Sixth Avenue (between 10th and 11th Streets), or visit their website.
What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc
Here is a map of all our Businesses of the Month: