Upper East Side With a Duane Reade seemingly on every corner, New Yorkers have become accustomed to the impersonal drugstore experience. But two women continue to prove that independent, customer-focused pharmacies aren’t relics of the past.
Pharmacists Yelena Yosse and Inna Shafir opened the Tisane Pharmacy on East 86th street in 2011, pairing a pharmacy and a café to treat New Yorkers to an unusually friendly drugstore experience. Both women moved to New York from Russia, and have lived here for more than 20 years. They noticed the many chain pharmacies popping up, and were disappointed that New Yorkers weren’t able to develop personal relationships with their pharmacists.
“Both Yelena and myself have been living in New York for 20 years, and in all that time never found a pharmacy that had the type of personal customer service people deserved,” Shafir said. “The café makes the entire storefront feel more connected to the community, it offers a place for people to come in and hang out.”
Walking through the bright blue doors of Tisane, customers are greeted by the café and seating area. At first it seems like just another quaint coffee shop, filled with people reading the New York Times and sipping on herbal tea. The barista joked that no café is more community-based, because he had just received a text from one of his regular customers, sending in his drink order.
Toward the back are shelves lined with both American and European products, and several friendly pharmacists at the back counter, filling prescriptions and taking orders over the phone. They’re both often waving at customers, knowing almost all of them by name.
“I’ve been a pharmacist for 39 years and I’m happy to have found Tisane because it is a real community pharmacy,” said Janet Distefano, who works as a compounding pharmacist. “We get so many people who come to us from Duane Reade and CVS, because of our personal service that they do not get there. Those places have people waiting an hour for prescriptions, where we only take 5-10 minutes.”
By offering prescriptions, compounding, herbal medicine, homeopathy, European skin care, prescription delivery, and blister packaging, Tisane has quickly become a favorite among Upper East Side residents. Blister packaging is a unique medication management service in which they pre-pour medications, label each prescription with the time of day in which to take each prescription, and deliver to the client’s home.
Services like this make Tisane stand out in a neighborhood that is mostly populated by senior citizens. Through partnerships with various home care agencies, they are able to deliver blister packages to all five boroughs.
In addition to such personalized pharmaceutical services, Tisane has also become a regular hangout for many Upper East Side residents.
“Our café has become a great place for the community to hang out, we like to call it our senior citizen happy hour because so many locals stop by so often,” joked Allison Fleece. Fleece joined the Tisane team six months ago as the marketing manager to let people know the different services they offer, since they were losing so much foot traffic to the 2nd avenue subway construction.
“I think anytime New Yorkers find a place that offers genuine service they fall in love with it,” Fleece said. “Yelena and Ina were really inspired to open up a place that felt like a French café, and 1950’s style community pharmacy. Mostly a place where the community could come together and enjoy a decent cup of coffee, read the paper on one of our bar stools, while getting their prescriptions filled.”