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June 11, 2004

More on drug stores

The other day, we were thinking back in time to the late 1920s and early 1930s which is when the Great Drug Store War erupted in Perry. The commotion was triggered by the arrival of a chain store pharmacy on the west side of the square in downtown Perry. In that domain, three drug stores had reigned supreme for several years, and the owners were reluctant to meekly turn over any of their territory to an upstart newcomer, especially one of the feared chain operations. My Dad, Fred W. Beers, was the owner-proprietor of the City Drug Store on the north side of the square. The other offensive militants were Ralph Foster Sr. of Foster's Corner Drug on the east side, and Everett Nelson of the Southside Pharmacy on that side of the square.

In later years, Charlie Watson had the Brownie Drug on the west side, but he was not around for this particular engagement. The City Drug was closed in 1940; nine years after Dad died. The Southside Pharmacy changed hands about 15 years later, and Foster's Corner Drug is still in business although under different ownership.

Chain store businesses had nothing to do with the closure of any of the stores.

The Perry Pharmacy on Fir Avenue is a lineal descendant of the Brownie Drug and also the Monte Jones Drug, but it was not here when the Drug Store War occurred.

I've heard many stories about the "war" from other members of my family, but I was too young at the time to have any vivid personal memories of it now.

The incident was generously covered in a nationally distributed trade magazine, Drug Topics. The article carried a detailed but straightforward account of the skirmish, printed several weeks after the three Perry druggists were proclaimed the winners. The chain store closed its outlet here and left town.

The magazine account summarized the Perry pharmacies' strategy as a simple one. The three men met periodically, pooled their purchases from wholesalers and passed the saving on to their customers. The buying power they employed was more than the chain operation cared to absorb, so the newcomers excused themselves and left town. It was a great victory for hometown ownership.