04 September 2012

Lascoff Drugs Closes After a 113 Years

I thought upper Lexington Avenue had a special force field surrounding it (i.e.—influential rich people) that allowed an inordinate number of old businesses to survive. But, alas, I was wrong. If the bluebloods couldn't save the iconic Upper East Side pharmacy Lascoff Drugs, what can they save?

Lascoff closed last July after 113 years in business. I don't know how I missed that. I guess lately I've unconsciously learned to avert my eyes when beautiful landmarks shutter. I just can't bear the pain. 

Lascoff, along with Bigelow and one or two others, was one of New York's great, classic pharmacies. It opened in 1899, when McKinley was President, and was the first licensed pharmacy in New York State, according to the New York Times. It was a store so majestic and solemn, you felt like you were entering a church when you went in. High ceilings, high shelving, a balcony, ancient Pharmacuetical relics, and silence. No music. You could find many old and classic brands there that you couldn't locate elsewhere. And the vertical sign on the corner building was one of the grandest in the city. 

The enterprise was founded by J. Leon Lascoff. He was born in Vilna, then in Russian Poland, and came to New York in 1892. His first drug store was at Lex and 83rd. He then moved across the street and then, in 1931, moved to 82nd and Lex—Lascoff's final location. He died in 1936. His son Frederick took over the business and ran it until his death in 1970. During Fred's time, the store had a reputation for odd cures. It sold leeches to boxers and catnip oil to lion hunters. He once sold a mixture of phenol, valerian, asafetida and iodoform to a colleague who had complained that his own pharmacy didn't smell enough like a drug store. 

After Frederick died, the business fell out of the family. It was purchased by Phil and Susan Ragusa. I assume they were still running it when it closed.


upstate johnny g said...

Aaarrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!! Another icon, another living link to the past, another glorious example of how time travel is almost possible, is closed. My girlfriend and I popped by Lascoff one morning this past summer and even though it was a weekday, they were closed. We didn't quite get it, because we'd been there before and business seemed healthy enough. Brooks, we have you to thank for turning us on to Lascoff's in the first place with your great posting about that neighborhood. We would go to Lascoff's and then pop over to the Lexington Candy Shop to have a real burger and a Coke made with actual Coke syrup and carbonated water, mixed with a spoon by the fountain guy. Your Yorkville guide opened all of this up to us. Thanks.

Do you have any idea what will become of Lascoff's? I can almost forsee someone keeping the whole thing intact and turning it into a Viennese coffee house. Probably couldn't cover the Manhattanese rent that way.......I wonder how manage to survive in Vienna?

I would say that after reading this news I was going to go down to Bill's Gay Nineties and drown my sorrows, but Bill's is gone too. (If, gentle reader, you are new to this blog, check out Brooks' posts about Bill's....and the other great saloons we've lost). And with that, I'm off to find a joint to call home for an hour or so and ponder what was, what is, and what might have been.

Trixie said...

I just saw a picture of it on Instagram and sadly it's empty now. What happened to all that wonderful stuff?