02 December 2008

Wooden Phone Booth Sighting: Miele Pharmacy

Now, this is a real find. I had no idea it existed. By pure chance, the other day I passed by the corner of 15th Avenue and 42nd Street the other day and saw an old Pharmacy sign. Big deal. I've seen a hundred like them. While old-fashioned pharmacy signs often hang around, evoking times gone by, pharmacy interiors are regularly updated and sterilized, leaving little taint of the past.

No so with this treasure, which the owner said has opened before 1900 and is the oldest pharmacy in Borough Park (the current owners have been there 40 years). Everything was as it must have been 60, 70 years ago. Wooden shelves lines the walls, climbing up to the ceiling. A rolling ladder hung on one set of shelving. The ceiling was tin, the floor was tile. A coin-operated scale stood near the door. A couple low shelving units punctuated the floor layout. There was one of those sloping wooden racks that hold greeting cards. The owner stood behind a long wooden counter near the back, little wire racks of gum and mints next to him, behind him another wall of shelves holding prescriptions and such.

Then I turned around and, lo and behold! Not one, but two wooden phone booths! Holy moly! The motherload. And in a pharmacy. I think that's a first for Lost City. Past wooden phone booth sightings have been in restaurants, bars and hotels only. And I had come just in time: the owner said the last remaining operating booth had just gone kaput; neither of them worked anymore and he was going to put them up for sale. A shame.

The shelves were loosely stocked; there was very little to buy. I wondered how the place stayed in business. (Copious local prescriptions?) If they must sell the booths, I hope they get a pretty penny for them, and that they sell them to someone who will restore and use them in another business.


David Freeland said...

This is indeed a great find. Does anyone know if there are still any original pharmacy/drug store lunch counters in the city? The last one I remember was at Columbus Circle. That space became a Starbucks maybe 8 or 9 years ago. Then there was another one on either Madison or Lexington Avenue in the 40s. That one closed some time during the middle 1990s, I think.

Ken Mac said...

is this in brooklyn?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

I know! I never would have found it if I hadn't been out walking aimlessly. I've never heard or read about it in an historical accounts of the city. Yes, Ken Mac, this is in Brooklyn, in Borough Park. Worth a visit, if you want to do a photo study. David, I think pharmacies with lunch counters are all but extinct. I don't know of any. Bigelow had one until the '80s. I know the one you mean on Lexington. It closed in the '90s. Maybe in the Bronx?

Kristen said...

There's at least one wooden phone booth in The New School's building on W 11th St.

SmallWorld123 said...

Yea... The one in the newschool is in the Lang Building..... right next to ken warks office..... good spot to roll up

Julian Palacios said...

Speaking of wood... When I was 12 in 1982 Macy's downtown had wooden escalators, and once in a blue moon there was a subway car with wooden seats.

DocNiel said...

Wow! I found this posting after doing a Google search on the family business. My dad and his brother have owned this store for 47 years, and I remember vividly sitting in those booths as a kid (the fans worked then...and still do) on hot summer days.
The booths were there when they bought the business. In the past, the phone company leased the space in the store. But, with the advent of cellphones, they became less interested in keeping the phones in working order, and they disconnected them.
I showed my "internet-challenged" dad the posting, and he hasn't stopped smiling after being noticed in this way. Thank you!
He didn't realize there might be a market for used phone booths, or he would have made an effort to sell them in the past. But, if anyone is truly interested in restoring them, you can contact me, or call him at the store.
Cool blog, by the way. Brought back lots of memories. :-)

Anonymous said...

I make reproduction phone booths if you know anyone who might want one for their home. Have a look at http://mahopkins.com/index.php?cPath=25_50 and let me know what you think.

Mark Hopkins