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.