Two community pharmacies in the area are closing their doors. Miller’s Drug Store in the Delaware County village of Margaretville shut down on May 19, and the Phoenicia Pharmacy is closing its prescription department as of July 1. The iconic structure at the corner of Phoenicia’s Main Street and Route 214 has undergone a number of renovations since the death of pharmacist Marty Millman last year, and his wife, Georganna, has put the building — to be used for any purpose — on the market.
Miller’s prescriptions have been transferred to the Margaretville CVS, according to a Facebook post by owners Fred and Rebecca Miller. Georganna has given Phoenicia customers almost two months’ notice, so they may shift their prescriptions to another pharmacy. The rest of the store will remain open until around Labor Day.
“I didn’t want to just shut the door one day,” said Georganna, who has run the business since her husband’s death. She is assisted by two long-term staff members and Josette Mullerleile, hired as a pharmacist under Marty. “Josette and I will meet each customer,” said Georganne, “and talk about how much we love this place and love Marty. This is a community pharmacy, and people need an opportunity to talk about it.”
Back in 2014 when Marty retired, he had hoped to sell both the building and the pharmacy business. An attempt by local resident and pharmacist Ed Ullman to buy the business and keep it running fell through later that year.
The nearest pharmacy for most Phoenicia customers will be Nekos in Boiceville, located at the IGA plaza.
Georganna said taking over her husband’s business has been challenging. “Every day things would come up, and I would teach myself what was going on and how to fix the problem. It takes a lot of my time, and I’m ready to spend more time with my granddaughter, Izzy, who lives in Pennsylvania. My son, Josh, and daughter-in-law, Sara, both work full-time. I do get called for babysitting duty, and Pennsylvania is four hours away.”
When asked whether competition from drugstore chains has made business more difficult, Georganna replied, “I don’t pretend to know the pharmacy industry. Maybe it’s a takeover of corporate America, maybe it’s something to do with Obamacare — I don’t know. I’m ready to take the next step in my life.”
In the past year, the building has been given a new roof, and the ceiling has been repaired. The ancient tile flooring was removed, and the concrete slab painted with gray primer. The entire glass storefront is brand-new. “Catskill Mountain Glass worked with us,” said Georganna. “They took out the ten-foot-high plate glass, some of it cracked, and put in all new aluminum framing and double-insulated Thermapane safety glass with UV protection.” The faded clothing and greeting cards near the windows were a trademark of the building, which was used many times as a film set due to its vintage appearance. Thanks to the new windows, new merchandise will not fade.
“We’re still giving the store a paint job,” said Georganna, “bringing out the Art Deco motif and the original woodwork.” The asking price is $387,000.
Marty had sought a buyer for the business and the building two years ago, in hopes of keeping the pharmacy open. The only serious buyer was turned down for a loan by the Catskill Watershed Corporation (CWC), amidst speculation over whether the refusal was due to the buyer’s finances or the town’s failure to install a sewer system. CWC was not at liberty to comment.
However, Georganna said the pharmacy’s septic system has always been reliable. It was built to accommodate the needs of a pharmacy, and she is researching which kind of changes might be needed if a restaurant were to open on the site. The septic is located under the building’s parking lot, which was paved, after Hurricane Irene, with a structure designed to channel any future floodwaters away from the building. Main Street flooded during the 2011 hurricane, but there was no damage to the pharmacy, despite four feet of water outside the sandbagged front doors. The small amount of water that seeped under the side and back doors was swept away easily, and the pharmacy was open the next day. Among the customers were some from Margaretville, where both pharmacies were flooded.
Georganna pointed out that the Stony Clove Creek, across the street, was dredged and the channel restructured after Irene. It did not flood the town ten days later, during Tropical Storm Lee, and hopefully will not cause future floods.
The building, constructed in 1950, is over 5000 square feet. “It’s a great huge space,” said Georganna. “There’s a lot that can be done with it. I hope whoever gets this place will have the happiness that Marty and I had here, and the sense of community.”
The Phoenicia Pharmacy, 41 Main Street, is open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The prescription department will close on July 1.