Best Service Winner: Fred Miller, Pharmacy
By Jay Braman Jr.
Fred Miller, the proprietor of Miller’s Drug Store on Main Street in Margaretville, speaks with pride in his voice when he talks about his business’s unusual distinction.
“We’re the only independent pharmacy left in Delaware County,” he said. “All the other ones are the chains.”
Fred revealed this badge of honor in a Sunday morning telephone interview with the Catskill Mountain News after being voted the best pharmacy in the paper’s annual Best Service Awards contest.
The phone call got Miller, who is 57, to think back on the history of the business that he took over from his father in 1985.
Nineteen hundred eighty five might have been when he took on ownership responsibilities, but his time behind the counter goes all the way back to his youth. He started to work there, officially anyway, as soon as he could at age 14. Before that, Fred remembers coming to work with his dad to collate all the newspapers.
He was so short, he said, his dad gave him a stool to stand on.
His dad, Richard Miller, bought the drug store in 1955, two years before Fred was born. It was Kelly’s Drugstore then, and before that it had been the O’Connor Drugstore, since first opening at the close of the Civil War.
He’s not certain, but he believes that, after being Miller’s for 59 years that might make his drugstore the longest operating business on Main Street.
Of course, the place has changed a bit. Gone is the old elegant coal stove that warmed the room, the tin ceiling has been replaced, the soda fountain is gone and all the old glass counter cases and ornate wooden shelving have disappeared too. But what has remained is the service provided.
It used to be that a pharmacy had whatever was needed to make you feel better. At Miller’s, it’s still that way.
“We’ve been lucky,” he says when asked about the store’s continued success. “Plus we’ve been able to keep up with the times.”
Yes. Fred did computerize the place so he’s running the same way as “the chains,” but there’s still some yesteryear service that he thinks plays a role.
Like, if someone needs medicine and he’s closed. One phone call to his home and he’ll meet you there and open up.
“It happens. Not a lot, but when called, we’ve done it.”
Miller says that even though independent drug stores like his are getting harder to find, they ranked higher than the competition in a Consumer Reports study he steered the News toward.
“As a group, pharmacy chains scored no higher in our ratings of walk-in drugstores than big-box chains such as Costco and Wal-Mart,” Consumer Reports states. “And both types of store were bested by supermarkets and independent pharmacies. Independents….earned readers’ top marks for speed and accuracy, courtesy and helpfulness, and pharmacists’ knowledge.”
But that wasn’t news to Fred Miller. And like he said, he’s got the only independent pharmacy in the county.