By Annie Stockwell
Since 1934, Gary Drug has been located at the corner of Charles and Mount Vernon Street, a place known and relied on by the Beacon Hill neighborhood. From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, the neighborhood residents rely on Gary Drug to have what they are looking for, and it always does.
Gail Bray, an employee at Gary Drug, has spent twenty-one years working in the brick building on 59 Charles Street.
“I’m a clerk,” she says, “But more, I order everything in the store, making sure we have a variety of items from different vendors. Most of all, I make sure everybody can find what they need.”
While customers may assume that Gail’s friendly face has always been behind the counter, it was not until she visited her sister, Eileen, that she knew this was where she wanted to be. Before working at Gary’s, Gail was a nanny on Long Island. However, once she experienced being in Beacon Hill, she needed to stay.
“When I came up here to visit Eileen, I thought where she worked was very cool,” Gail explained. “I mean, it’s the hub of the city, how could you not love living here.”
It did not take too much convincing from Eileen to encourage Gail to move to Boston. “Before my sister passed away, she told me, ‘you ought to take this apartment.’ So, now I live right above the store.” Directly above the letters ‘RY’ on the ‘Gary Drug’ sign, is Gail’s living room window. She says, “Not only do I get the advantage of working here, but I also get to live in the neighborhood.”
Customers expect to see Gail’s smile when they walk into the pharmacy. “I mean, i’m there 50 hours a week, sometimes more,” she says. As a result of the time she logs in store, she has grown to know her customers more than just on a first name basis.
“I’ve met moms during their pregnancies and then watched their children grow up. I’ve seen people leave the neighborhood and then come back and say, ‘I just had to stop by and say hello, so good to know you’re still here.’”
The environment at Gary Drug is that of a welcoming family. There was a time when Gail, Eileen, Danielle (her daughter), and Tom (her nephew), all worked together at the pharmacy. At that same time, Herman Greenfield, the owner, and his son Dan also worked there.
“We called it the coup against the Greenfields; because we outnumbered them,” Gail says.
When her daughter, Danielle, was working the night shift, Gail would make dinner for everyone who was working in the store, she continues to do so.
“Every Wednesday I bring down dinner for whomever is working, and the leftovers I bring for lunch on Thursday,” she says. “So I cook about once a week for all the employees, and I enjoy it.”
Gail does not only cook meals, but she also bakes every Sunday to bring to her coworkers on Monday. These baked goods include: cookies, brownies, poundcakes, coffeecakes, banana and pumpkin bread, cranberry bread. Gail brings goodies to look forward to while working, and humbly treats everyone to her cooking.
Gail knows how the seasons affect business and how her customers’ routines change. Working year round, she knows when business will be slow.
“The summer-doldrums, when everybody leaves town is not as busy… and February, you know how February can be really nasty because it’s so cold, and people don’t want to be out in the cold,” she says.
Currently, Gail has noted the effects the pandemic has had on the store, with more people stocking up on supplies and medicines and the need to send out more FedEx packages to customers.
When customers walk into Gary Drug, they expect to see Gail Bray. “They may not know my name but they know my face,” she says.
She has become an important member of Beacon Hill, who contributes to the community. She says how she has met many great people on the Hill, and wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
“When I walk down the street, I get more people saying ‘hello’ to me than I could ever imagine,” she says. “I love this neighborhood, it’s a great place to be.”
Annie Stockwell is a resident of Beacon Hill and is a junior at Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge.