Remodel aims to put character back into drug store

By Observer Upload April 18, 2013 12:31 pm

By Kelly Black/Observer correspondent

Walt Brookshire is finishing up a remodel of the historic Union Drug Co. on Main Street in Union, which not only doubles retail space but adds historic charm.

Brookshire’s drug store remodel harkens back to a different time when soda fountains served malts at the local drug store.

“I’ve always wanted a soda fountain,” said Brookshire. “I think they are just cool and historic.”

Brookshire recently installed a soda fountain originally from the Newberry’s Department Store in Eugene. The refrigerated stainless steel cabinet houses the ice cream and the refrigeration for the old-style carbonator complete with gooseneck spigots.

The soda fountain at the Union Drug Co will serve classic sodas and malts as well as espresso and light lunches.

“We want to do the traditional things at the soda fountain,” said Brookshire.

Brookshire has been gathering recipes for old-time soda drinks. He hopes customers who grew up visiting classic soda fountains will have drink requests as well.

The soda counter will also serve espresso and coffee through a new drive-up window on the north side of the building. 

Brookshire’s entire remodel is steeped in old-time flavor. Twelve-foot ceilings are graced with reproduction schoolhouse-style lights that have the classic exposed wiring. Brookshire used old windows to frame the pharmacy department. Then there is the 1946 jukebox.

 “We wanted to put the character back into it,” said Brookshire.

The drug store has expanded to include more than 1,600 square feet of new retail space, a new back room and a commercial kitchen. 

“I’ve always wanted to expand,” said Brookshire. “It is kind of now or never.”

Brookshire grew up in Union and bought the historic brick building and the Union Drug Co. from the Wayne Ferguson estate in January 1994.

The brick Union Drug Co. building was built in 1903, according to Brookshire who worked to register Union commercial buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The brick building is architecturally significant because it serves as a good example of 20th century commercial architecture in Union. 

Lucius A. Wright, who served two terms as mayor of Union, built the brick building and used it for his pharmaceutical business. At one point the store was called L.A. Wright Rexall Drug Store. 

The Busick family purchased the building and added the name, The Union Drug Co. 

In 1934, pharmacist George Ferguson bought the property. His son, Wayne, owned the store until his death in July 1993. Brookshire interned for Wayne Ferguson in the summer of 1979 after his first year of pharmacy school and later acquired the property in 1994.

Brookshire began planning the remodel of the historic drug store a year and a half ago. He said the remodel is nearly finished. 

“We have a few more hurdles to get done,” said Brookshire.