Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Guerin's Drug Store, As Old Time Down South As It Gets

I suppose that deep inside each of us is a yearning for Americana, a quest for the simpler times. Maybe it is a song that takes us back or a Norman Rockwell Print that reminds us of bygone days. For me, I have a "time travel" moment every time I walk or drive past Guerin's Pharmacy located on the square in Historic Downtown Summerville, South Carolina.

It stands to reason that a pharmacist would be attracted to an old style corner Apothecary, but I surmise the allure that this living museum possesses is steeped in something much stronger than just my professional affiliation.
Yes it is true, that at one time this quixotic pharmacy student at West Virginia University envisioned himself as the independent owner of a thriving corner drug store in some quaint little hamlet of the Mountain State. However, that wasn't in the stars, and after relocating to the mecca of American History, Charleston, I realize that the source of my interest in the old time drug store is spawned by the general wonder and amazement of how different life was for our great-grandparents.
I have to admit, though, there probably is a little bit more of an interest in the history of this particular landmark than most for me, at least that would explain the fatuousness that I experienced while recently exploring the living museum that is Guerin's Pharmacy.

Amidst the original millwork cases housing the various sundries and over-the-counter remedies are years of untold stories of customers stopping by for relief from one type of ailment or another and visiting with friends and neighbors, maybe enjoying a coke float or piece of candy, while Doc prepared their medication behind the solid cherry apothecary front. The front complete with a mirrored background and stained glass sidelights serves as the focal point of the shoppe. Although, it is difficult to define just what is the focal point of the interior of Guerin's Pharmacy, there is just too much to see. How about the refrigerated Whitman's Candy Case, the Kodak Display Case, maybe the antique scales or possibly the original 1920's soda fountain.

On the morning that I stopped by and spoke with the Pharmacist/Owner Barbara Dunning, she told me that Guerin's serves many third-generation customers, and that is not hard to imagine knowing that Guerin's Pharmacy has it roots going back to the Civil War when a druggist from Downtown Charleston relocated to safer confines up in Summerville. Barbara smiled when she told stories about grandchildren and great-grandchildren of former customers stopping by now after school for ice cream or a hotdog.

Speaking of hot dogs, not that I want this to become another hotdog blog, Guerin's fountain does offer a pretty righteous hotdog with "chilli", and Barbara, not knowing about my standing as a hotdog "sauce" aficionado did say that their "chilli" is her mothers recipe and is NOT made with beans. The absence of beans on top of the hotdog made me smile, now if I can just convince her to call it hotdog sauce and not chilli. I have to admit, the aroma of the hotdog "chilli" was the first thing I noticed when I opened the front doors of this living and breathing slice of Americana called Guerin's Pharmacy.

The exterior of Guerin's is just as reminiscent of days gone by as the interior. It's location on Summerville's historic Hutchinson Square embodies the romantic heritage of days gone by in the South. In fact, a couple of years ago, prior to the Summer Olympics, one of the major oil companies was attempting to bolster their image by filming commercials for the Olympics that tugged at the heartstrings of American Consumers yearning for simpler times. One of the commercials that aired was filmed on location here in Summerville. The image of the little girl featured in the commercial gazing at a globe that transforms into a birds eye view of the United States. As the camera continues to zoom in the little girl is shown walking down a street right out of the 1940's holding her father's hand, well that street was the very street where Guerin's Pharmacy is located, adjacent to Hutchinson Square in Historic Summerville, South Carolina, and I get to enjoy that view every single day.


  1. Lisa Yoak-McLaughlinWednesday, February 09, 2011

    GREAT READ, once again, Doug!!!!
    VERY interesting!

  2. Dougie,
    You have done it again. I remember the same type of Pharmacies in operation in Davis and Parsons, Tucker County, WV in the early 60's minus the hotdogs. But the fountain drinks were a treat to behold. Keep it up....
    Your Friend, Benny F


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