By Adel Manoukian
Goodrich Pharmacy on 70th Street said goodbye to the Upper West Side neighborhood it had occupied for the past 40 years at the end of June, to the dismay of residents and owner Frank Cammarata.
The mom-and-pop pharmacy was forced to shut its doors due to low insurance reimbursement rates and increasing expenses.
“I’m burned out,” Cammarata, also the head pharmacist, said a few days before the closing. “Living and coming from Jersey takes a lot of money away—and with the cost of everything going up, the pendulum balance isn’t swinging correctly.”
He planned to transfer patrons’ prescriptions to the Duane Reade down the block, but residents visiting Goodrich were unhappy with this change.
“The insurance companies just care about money,” said Lisa Kohler, who lives a few doors down and has been coming to the pharmacy for all of her medications since 1976.
“I don’t care if I get less reimbursement here; if the service is better than in some cold chain pharmacy, it’s worth my money.”
Kohler feels she has become part of a family and does not plan on depending on the new drugstore for her medication.
“I decorate the store window every Christmas, I bring Frank coffee. I can’t do that at Duane Reade,” said Kohler. “Also, this place has character, it’s unique. Duane Reade would make me want to slit my wrists because it’s aesthetically ugly.”
The charm of the place may have come from the 1920s-themed deep walnut cabinets that spanned from the floor to the ceiling of the small space or the nickel-a-pop scale by the entrance.
Kohler also cited longer wait times for medication at chain pharmacies and an incident where a chain store pharmacy gave her elderly mother the wrong prescription.
“There’s never been a mistake in my prescription at Frank’s,” praised Kohler.
Judy Greenbaum, another long-time patron, is also concerned about the change.
“When your health is concerned, it shouldn’t always be about how much cheaper medication is,” said Greenbaum, who has known Cammarata for at least 25 years and trusts him and his experience. “Medication may be a little more expensive here, but the care and service aspect is better than at a chain store. This was such a good resource for the neighborhood.”
Customers seemed to feel comfortable around Cammarata—he often offered medical advice for simple colds with natural remedies, even ones you can find at home, rather than always resorting to medications.
Almost all of Cammarata’s customers have known him for a very long time, he said.
“What I’ll miss most are the customers whom I consider friends and family. I’ve seen most of them grow up from little kids knee-high to become lawyers and doctors. I’ll miss their lovely faces.”
The business has clearly been a big part of Cammarata’s life. One of Cammarata’s fondest memories of the store is meeting his wife, who was a customer. One of his former delivery boys grew up and became a certified technician in the pharmacy.
A deal to give the store to someone else fell through so Cammarata is clueless about what is next for the space. Many are speculating it will be some sort of chain or store run by a corporation.
Cammarata, 68, said he feels forced to retire and, if given the chance, he would have stayed around for about 3 more years.
For now, Cammarata plans to occupy his time continuing to help others—whether volunteering at a hospital or running a private, independent pharmacy from his home.
“After maybe three years, I would have forced myself to retire. I haven’t given it much thought; this sprung up on me. Now I really don’t know what the future holds.”
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