The Bee Pharmacy


The Bee Pharmacy, 1920s

500 Balboa Street at Sixth Avenue in the 1920s. - Courtesy of John Freeman

Here's another nice business photo from the past from WNP member John Freeman, who writes:

"[This] is 500 Balboa, northwest corner of 6th Avenue. It was called The Bee Pharmacy. City directories gave me a five-year window between 1924 and 1929. I suspect that it may have closed in 1930 for a few years, as the Depression worsened and competition came from another pharmacy on the next corner of 5th and Balboa. Later, when I was growing up in the neighborhood, it was Model Pharmacy, which sometime in the 1950s expanded into the building next door and moved the pharmacy counter from the north wall to the west side, taking up the section of the building next door.

"For about 60 years, all the mini-neighborhoods in the 'avenues' had a cluster of essential services within easy walking distance from residences. There was always a pharmacy, grocery store (some times separate meat market and vegetable shops next door), bakery, dry cleaners, hardware, radio sales and service, beauty parlor, barber shop, florist, variety store, small restaurant, real estate office, and saloon.

"Today, we can find many of those services at a supermarket, eliminating drug stores, bakeries, and florists from our neighborhood landscape. The tenant now (2008) at 500 Balboa is the Chinese Arts and Music Center, which sells Asian musical instruments and offers music lessons."

We examinationed the window displays closely and saw that the Bee Pharmacy featured old photos of the Cliff House and other San Francisco landmarks. The owner probably would enjoy being a WNP member, if alive today!

More memories from Art Poulin:

John Freeman's story on 500 Balboa St. and the photo of Bee Pharmacy brought back memories. I don't recall the name "Bee", but I used to buy licorice root there and I obtained my first baseball in a contest that the pharmacy ran. Points were awarded for bringing in phone books upon which the pharmacy would stamp its address and phone number.

While attending Frank McCoppin School up the street (6th Ave.), I served on this corner as a traffic patrol boy escorting "little kids" across the street with Joe Molinelli, who later graduated to become a sergeant in the S.F.P.D. Our corner was the best duty because there was a candy store just a few doors up 6th avenue and another less than a block away on Balboa.

The other pharmacy a block away was Schmerker's. The description of mini-neighborhoods certainly fit the area around the Bee Pharmacy. On that same side of Balboa was a barber shop, a candy store with a soda fountain, and a grocery store (corner of 5th and Balboa). Across the street was Lachman's Meat Market, diagonally across was Wagner's grocery next to which was a produce store. Also on that block was a dry goods store.


Contribute your own stories about western neighborhoods places.

Page launched 14 July 2008; updated 2 September 2008.