Cartwrites: The corner drug store closes

Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2012 in Features

Cartwrites: The corner drug store closes

In this photograph dating from the 50s, the drug store, then Rexall, is visible down the block on the left.

by Steve Cartwright

WALDOBORO — For decades, independent Clark Drug served Waldoboro and surrounding communities, filling more than 1,000 prescriptions each week, plus selling other medicines and sundries.

On Saturday, Nov. 17, the business — for the past dozen years known as Waltz Pharmacy — closed for the first time in more than a century.

Several news stories pointed out Waldoboro residents are now left without any drug store. But the closing also affects the neighboring towns of Friendship, Warren, Union, Jefferson and Bremen as well. None of these have, or are near to, another drug store.

At the Village Bakery and Cafe, two doors away from the closed shop, residents sipping coffee lamented the closing of a needed service, a store that was part of the village's vitality.

The owners, with no warning, decided to cash it in, leaving employees without work and customers without a nearby place to buy medicine. Some of these customers live across the street in housing for the elderly and disabled, and they don't drive.

The nearest drug stores are 12 miles away in Damariscotta and 17 miles away in Rockland. Those stores are Rite-Aids, and while filling some needs, and selling a lot of non-essentials, these chain stores have no trace of local character. The same goes for a sprawling Hannaford's supermarket in Damariscotta that also sells prescription drugs.

A corner store, drug or otherwise, is more than just a place to buy stuff. It's a social center, a place to chat and renew ties to your neighbors. It is key to that sense of place that we feel without always knowing how to explain it. In my memory, until sometime in the 1980s, you could order an ice cream cone or chocolate malted at a marble soda fountain by the old cash register. The store was an old-time classic.

Pharmacist Ted Wooster bought the drug-store business from his father, who had purchased it around 1950. The younger Wooster had sold the business, but not the historic brick building he owns, to Waltz.

All is not hopeless. There’s talk of someone re-opening the drug store, perhaps as early as January 2013, as part of a small Maine chain of pharmacies.

The Village Bakery, The Narrows Tavern and Medomak River Community Market opened in the past few years, foreshadowing a revival of Waldoboro's moribund downtown.

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