During the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s 100th annual meeting, which returned after three years as an in-person event on Monday, May 16, at the Union Club, Gary Drug Co. received one of this year’s two 25th annual Beacon Awards in recognition of the longstanding Charles Street pharmacy’s “significant and sustained contribution to the Beacon Hill community.”
The self-described “neighborhood legend since 1934,” located at 59 Charles St., was purchased in 1972 by Herman Greenfield, who was awarded the Beacon Award in 2002 in recognition of Gary Drug’s dedicated service to the neighborhood. (He also bought the building where the pharmacy is located in 1978.) In the ‘90s, Herman transferred ownership of the business to his son, Dan Greenfield, who ran the business until last September when it was purchased by Seth Freedman, a pharmacist at Gary Drug for the previous 11 years.
On making the move from store employee to business owner, Freedman said, “So far, so good. It’s been a life-changing event. It seemed like a good decision, and I do enjoy working there, but I have to do a lot more work.”
Before he was notified that Gary Drug would be receiving a Beacon Award, Freedman admits he wasn’t even aware of the accolade’s existence.
Moreover, Freedman said he felt as though maybe he shouldn’t even be receiving the award, since it was for all of 2021, when he only ran the business for the last four months while Dan Greenfield was its proprietor for the first eight months of the year.
Freedman said he wants to maintain Gary Drug as a “family-oriented business,” having taken it over from a father and son.
“Herman still owns the building, and we’re trying to keep the friendly environment, and to continue serving the community,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to increase the [store’s] capacity and services over time, and we’re glad and proud to be an independent pharmacy that takes care of the neighborhood.”
Dan Greenfield, meanwhile, has since stepped into Freedman’s old shoes and now works at Gary Drug as a pharmacist.
“Seth was such a great employee, always treating the place like he owned it, and I’m still treating it like I own it, so nothing much has changed for me, although a lot has changed for Seth since he has a lot more responsibilities,” said Dan Greenfield.
Besides Freedman and Dan Greenfield, other longtime employees, like Gail Bray (who received the Beacon Award on behalf of Gary Drug at the annual meeting) and Tom Savage, aren’t going anywhere either.
Bray is a 30-plus year employee of the business, while Savage grew up in an apartment above the store. (He has been with the store since he was “pre-natal,” jokes Dan Greenfield). Savage’s late mother, Eileen Fitzpatrick, also worked at Gary Drug for many years.
“It’s always been our mission to serve the neighborhood, and I think in terms of getting out, the main thing was that we’d continue to serve the neighborhood,” said Dan Greenfield. “With Seth [as the new owner], it was an easy choice. I knew that nothing would change, and that [the business] would go on a little longer. It’s in great hands. Seth is going to be a great steward, and that made [selling the business], that much easier for us.”
Meanwhile, Russ Gaudreau, chair of the Beacon Award Nominating Committee, said the decision to grant two awards this time as opposed to only one in years past was partially due to the fact that they skipped last year due to the pandemic.
But perhaps more importantly, when the Nominating Committee looked back at past recipients, they quickly realized that only individuals had received the award, even though the charter specifies that organizations, groups, businesses, and institutions are also eligible to receive it.
With this in mind, the Nominating Committee began focusing on deserving organizations and institutions, said Gaudreau, and Gary Drug was the “first one to jump to mind.”
Asked to describe the pharmacy’s role in the neighborhood, Gaudreau quotes a description of the business submitted to the Nominating Committee by Freedman, who wrote: “The little train that is Gary Drug opened its doors in 1934 and has been chugging along ever since.”
Likewise, the business has also maintained what Gaudreau describes as a “great continuity of employees.”
Gary Drug also offers a consistent level of “personal individualized service” not found in big chain drug store, said Gaudreau.
Gaudreau, along with his wife, travels regularly, and they both get all their prescriptions filled at Gary Drug, where they can just call over and get a pharmacist who knows them personally and will take their order and put it out for them in the mail the very next day. “We’re not unique in that regard – it’s just what they do,” Gaudreau said of Gary Drug’s unwavering high standard of customer service.