Among the earliest businesses founded in Andover were the pharmacies or “apothecaries.”
That’s what they were called back in 1854 when David Horwath opened his shop. Hughes Pharmacy followed in 1863, beginning a relationship with Andover that spanned nearly 130 years. These stores, like many that would follow in the years to come, did more than simply dispense medicines, they offered their customers a wide assortment of goods ranging from books and stationary to jewelry.
Their longevity is due in no small way to their adapting to the changing needs of their customers. The turn of the century brought these changes to Andover’s Main Street – and to the lifestyle of most everyone in Andover. The widespread availability of electricity, the introduction of telephone service, the refinement of refrigeration systems, expanding the downtown Andover/Lawrence trolley service to Reading and Haverhill, and finally the automobile each had a dramatic impact on daily life.
In the early 1900s, downtown Andover had a growing number of druggists serving the needs of Andover’s growing population. In 1902, after serving his apprenticeship with local druggist W. H. Parker, Albert Lowe opened his pharmacy. It became a mainstay along Main Street for the next 50 years.
In February, 1907, the Andover Townsman gave its readers a glimpse into the beautiful new Crowley & Company store stating “…there is a single plate glass door, beautifully carved and mounted with a brass latch. On opening the door the first thing to meet the eye is the soda fountain.”
It was a sign of things to come. Beyond simply filling prescriptions and offering a wide array of goods, pharmacies were becoming social destinations – a place to gather and relax after school, following Sunday church service or at the end of a long shopping excursion on Main Street.
Paul Simone, long a fixture on Main Street, took the pharmacy business to a new height when, in 1932 after 25 years in the Musgrove building, he built the Simone block and opened Simeone’s Pharmacy on the corner of Main Street and Post Office Avenue. The new, modernistic building was spectacular to behold with its verde green marble bulkheads, brick windows finished in walnut, and gold bronze exterior woodwork. Inside, the store featured a “full line of Squibb and McKesson products…attractive fittings have also been installed including a soda fountain…(and) the hardware throughout the building is all chromium plated.” Simeone’s operated for over 60 years before closing in 1995. Walking by that corner today, you can still see the Simeone name above the front door on the building’s façade.
There were other long cherished names that hung shingles along Main Street. Among them was Hartigan’s Drug Store. Founded in 1924, Hartigan’s stood on the corner of Chestnut and Main streets (where CVS is now located) for over 50 years. It is remembered for its great service and spectacular accoutrements. Hartigan’s advertised in 1924 that its fountain was equipped with a state-of-the-art Frigidaire system. After closing in 1977, Hartigan’s granite counters, chrome fixtures, leaded glass and exquisite mahogany paneling were sold to a private party in Texas.
Hughes Pharmacy, then one of the oldest in the Commonwealth, served our town for nearly 130 years. How does a local merchant last that long? The late Alan Hughes, who ran the store for 23 years, perhaps summed it up best. When asked in 1988 what made it work so well for so long and why their customers remained so loyal, Hughes said it was the personal attention that most stores don’t provide anymore. It was that old-fashioned way of doing things that kept them coming back year in and year out. They made people feel welcome, he said.
For the young, like the youth of today, places like Hughes, Simeone’s, Hartigan’s and Dalton’s were the places to be, to meet friends and just generally hang out after school. Not much different than CVS, Orange Leaf or Ultimate Perk are today. In previous decades, the huge draw was the soda fountain. People who recall those days, now long past, fondly remember the soda fountains. “I remember the penny candy and the gorgeous granite counters,” recalled Andover native Barbara Kurth. For many like Barbara, the drug-store soda fountain was the social networking technology of the day. “I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. They were the best of times,” she said.
The last of these great institutions, Hughes Pharmacy, closed in 1991 when it was acquired by CVS, which is now Andover’s sole downtown Main Street drug store. The brief glimpse you’ve had of Crowley’s, Lowes’, Simone’s, Hughes’, Dalton’s and Hartigan’s only scratches the surface. Their presence did so much more than simply fill prescriptions and dispense medicines. Why were these stores so important, and why did they survive so long? Quite simply, they played an important role in our community, enriching our lives and giving character to our town. They made Andover a special place to be.