Western Neighborhoods Project is dedicated to the history of San Francisco's Richmond, Sunset, OMI and West of Twin Peaks districts.   read more ...

Streetwise: "Take Two Aspirin" in the Western Neighborhoods

by Frank Dunnigan
April 2024

Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -
Before the turn of the millennium, small independent drug stores were plentiful across the western neighborhoods. Often these stores operated within a short distance of each other, and there was enough business for all. Chain pharmacies eventually began acquiring a number of small neighborhood grocery stores, and the old corner drug store was then often replaced with a much larger chain pharmacy that also carried a wide variety of other goods.

Laurel Village, southeast corner of Spruce and California Streets, 1990s - Richmond Review Newspaper Collection / Courtesy of Paul Kozakiewicz, Richmond Review.
In the 1990s, many independent neighborhood pharmacies were beginning to disappear as larger chains began to dominate the business. Cal-Medical Pharmacy occupied this corner at California and Spruce Streets in Laurel Village well into the 1980s, but by the 1990s, the site was vacant. For many years now, it has been a large Starbucks coffee shop.

West Portal and Vicente, July 5, 1962 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
PortalWood Pharmacy, shown here in 1962, occupied the corner of West Portal Avenue and Vicente Street for decades. The building was constructed in the 1920s adjacent to the Empire Theatre and demolished in the 1970s. It was replaced with a larger, modern structure known as PortalWood Professional Building, located at 99 West Portal Avenue.

View west on Irving Street from 7th Avenue, June 1983 - Courtesy of a Private Collector.
The southwest corner of 7th Avenue and Irving Street was home to West Coast Pharmacy in this 1983 image, while several other drug store establishments were just a short walk away. Read Lorri Ungaretti’s 2002 article about Leon Levy, a longtime local pharmacist who owned and operated this location from 1977-1997.

View north on 9th Avenue toward Irving Street, September 1974 - Photo by John Harder / Courtesy of a Private Collector.
The northeast corner of 9th Avenue and Irving Street was home to Dessel’s Pharmacy in this 1974 image. Nearby at the far left is a Rexall Drug Store; both are just a short walk away from West Coast Pharmacy at 7th and Irving.

Lakeside Medical building at the corner of Ocean and Junipero Serra, about 1956 - WNP Collection.
Anchoring the busy intersection of Ocean Avenue, Eucalyptus Drive, and Junipero Serra Boulevard in the Lakeside Village shopping area was Bowerman’s Pharmacy, established before World War II and shown here in 1956. Note the “Rings of Saturn” architectural embellishment (long gone as of today) on the spire above the building’s entrance, as well as the store’s two 3-wheel orange delivery motorcycles parked adjacent to the streetlight. Bowerman’s lasted until the 1980s, and while the upper floors have housed a variety of medical offices, the ground floor space has been sporadically vacant in recent times.

View east on Taraval at 21st Avenue, 1947 - Courtesy of Jack Tillmany.
Overland Pharmacy, run by Charles Corsiglia since before World War II, was located at the southeast corner of 21st Avenue and Taraval. After his untimely passing in the 1950s, Charles’s wife took over operation of the business with a staff of pharmacists until her retirement before the turn of the millennium. Since the time of the store’s closing, this location has been home to a number of different restaurants. Note the building with tall windows to the right of Overland Pharmacy – the U.S. Post Office Parkside Station prior to its September 1963 move to a newer, larger building at 28th Avenue and Taraval. Also visible in this image at the southwest corner of 20th and Taraval is Community Pharmacy, whose space was taken over by an expansion of the adjacent Bank of America branch at 1007 Taraval in the 1950s.

Charles Reis of Reis' Pharmacy, 18th Avenue at Taraval Street, circa 1950s. - Courtesy of David Reis.
Charles Reis (shown here in 1955) and his brother Monroe operated Reis’ Pharmacy at the southeast corner of 18th Avenue and Taraval for many decades until it closed in the 1970s. The ground floor location has been home to a number of liquor stores and other retailers since then.

View south to Stonestown Shopping Center, 19th Avenue and Winston, 1950s - Morton-Waters Co., SCRAP Negative Collection / Courtesy of SCRAP).
In the 1950s, an early Walgreens outlet occupied the corner adjacent to Stonestown Market, with its distinctive red neon sign just to the left of the traffic signal. This was a rare Walgreens location that maintained an all-day lunch counter in the store until the 1970s.

Northeast corner of 34th Avenue and Vicente, 1951 - SF Assessors Office Negatives / WNP Collection.
Away from the more heavily trafficked business corridors in the Sunset, Landson Pharmacy – shown here at 34th Avenue and Vicente in 1951 – served the needs of nearby customers until its closure prior to the turn of the millennium. For several years recently, a home improvement business has occupied the space.

Southwest corner of Irving and 21st Avenue, 1951 - SF Assessors Office Negatives / WNP Collection.
Roth’s Pharmacy, shown here in 1951, anchored the southwest corner of 21st Avenue and Irving Street for decades. With a simple design (including its name plus the mortar and pestle that were outlined in peach colored neon tubing), it was a classic part of the street scene. Roth’s closed around the turn of the millennium and the tower and signage were removed in order to remodel the building into a bank branch.

Contribute your own stories about western neighborhoods places!

 
More by Frank Dunnigan
Related Content

Save SF History