Boyd & Fulford Drugs, which has been a mainstay of downtown Bel Air since it opened in 1892, will close Monday, and its current owner, M. Eugene “Gene” Streett, will end a 75-year career of working at the same business.
“Seventy-five years working in the same building; I have not worked elsewhere,” Streett, 89, said Tuesday. He began working at Boyd & Fulford in September of 1944 at age 14, as the “cleanup man" for the drugstore’s famed soda fountain.
Streett owns the business and the building at 23 S. Main St. in downtown Bel Air; he had owned the business with his late wife, Marytherese, who died in August of 2012.
“We work because we like it,” Marytherese said in a Harford Magazine profile earlier that year. “Our whole life has revolved around this pharmacy.”
Boyd & Fulford, which the Streetts acquired in the early 1960s, was known for many years as a hot spot in downtown Bel Air for its soda fountain and lunch counter.
Annette Blum, 66, of Bel Air, grew up along North Tollgate Road and recalled riding her bike at age 7 — when she still used training wheels — for about two miles along Route 1, past the former Bel Air Race Track, to downtown so she could get an ice cream soda or milkshake at Boyd & Fulford.
Blum said she would save her then-25 cent allowance, budgeting 10 cents for her Brownie troop and the remaining 15 cents for her chocolate ice cream soda.
She recalled, in an interview Wednesday evening, the many details of Boyd & Fulford’s interior such as its tin Victorian ceiling with stamped patterns on the metal, tall wooden booths at the lunch counter, a rack of detective novels with lurid artwork on the covers, and the decorative wooden panels that separated the pharmacy counter from the customer areas. Blum remembers the cornice at the top of the paneling and “elaborate” fluting.
She said large glass bottles, filled with colored liquid, rested on the cornice.
“Each jar had different colored fluid, alternating between yellow, green or red, and the light passed through them so that they looked like enormous jewels,” Blum said.
She also praised Streett for his professionalism and decades of personal care for customers.
“He’s a good guy,” Blum said. “He’s a very good guy; he’s very conscientious and very caring.”
Eugene currently works with Audrey Streett, his daughter-in-law and fellow pharmacist, and two other employees.
The closing was announced in a Sept. 21 letter posted on the Boyd & Fulford Drugs page on Facebook.
“I thank you for your loyalty and entrusting Boyd and Fulford Pharmacy for generations with your pharmacy care and me personally for 75 years of service,” Streett wrote in the letter. “More than customers, you are my friends, neighbors, high school classmates and extended family. I will miss you all.”
Audrey, who is married to Eugene Streett’s son Jonathan, has worked at Boyd & Fulford for 28 years.
“It felt like home from Day One,” she said.
Audrey, 55, will transfer to the pharmacy at the Klein’s ShopRite supermarket at 223 N. Main St., also in Bel Air. She is scheduled to start work Tuesday and will help serve Boyd & Fulford customers after their pharmacy closes — Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland has also “kindly extended” offers of job positions to his other staffers, Eugene Streett noted in his letter.
The transition is the result of consultations between the Streetts and Klein’s ShopRite officials, including Pharmacy Director Frank “Butch” Henderson.
“We share that community feeling, giving back and supporting the community,” said Audrey, a Fallston resident who grew up in Forest Hill and has known many members of the Klein family.
Henderson, who said he has known Audrey for about 40 years, said he will work with her to transfer pharmacy data to ShopRite. She will work at the supermarket pharmacy nearly every day so Boyd & Fulford customers have a familiar face and can make a smooth transition.
“We feel very honored to be able to continue to serve their patients, and provide the level of care and customer service that the patient is accustomed to,” Henderson said.
‘End of an era’
The news of Boyd & Fulford’s closing has hit many longtime customers hard, according to Audrey Streett, who has spent time this week talking with customers, many of whom have been in tears, as they visit the pharmacy.
“It’s like a death, almost, it’s an end of an era,” she said.
People also brought gifts and cards to the Streetts, thanking them for their service. Eugene brought a floral arrangement, with a card, from customers Cora, George and Sandy Barstow, to the back office as Audrey spoke with an Aegis reporter late Tuesday morning. The Barstows thanked them for “many, many years of wonderful customer service,” according to the card.
Audrey said a number of customers visit to not only get their prescriptions filled but because they are looking for somebody to talk with. She said seeing “a friendly face” and spending time with “somebody that cares and actually knows them” is “part of their medicine.”
Eugene Streett said the pharmacy has “very social customers who are always very loyal and always very pleasant to be [with]."
“It boils down to, more or less, your customers end up being like family to you,” he said.
Eugene is the father of four sons —Chris, Eugene, Jonathan and Tim.
Tim, who worked as an attorney and had an office above his parents’ pharmacy, died in April of 2013.
Eugene keeps a framed copy of Tim’s written “Last Testament” in the rear office.
“If this document is being offered for probate, then I have finished my run in this world,” wrote Tim, who was 53 years old when he passed. “Do not feel bad, for I have had a good time that could never again be duplicated.”
The primary reasons for closing Boyd & Fulford are related to the increased costs of doing business that make it challenging for many independently-owned pharmacies to keep going.
Audrey cited one expense that has been an issue for pharmacies around the country, especially independent ones, that being direct and indirect remuneration fees, or DIR. Those fees are charged by third-party pharmacy benefit managers and entities that sponsor Medicare insurance plans, as well as private insurance plans such as those offered by employers.
Pharmacists and their advocates have been petitioning the federal government for changes in the DIR fees, which are charged retroactively and not reflected in what pharmacists charge patients for prescriptions at the point of sale, according to information posted on the American Pharmacists Association website.
Audrey Streett described DIRs as “clawback fees.”
“No logical person would run a business in those circumstances, not knowing what economic return they’re getting on it,” she said.
Independent pharmacies give back
Henderson, who is past president of the Maryland Pharmacists Association, said he has visited many independent pharmacies around Maryland and in other states, recalling that a number of those pharmacies were known for their former soda fountains.
He said independently owned pharmacies such as Boyd & Fulford and those operated by Kleins, do a lot to give back and invest in the communities that support them.
The Klein family has supported the development of the Harford Crisis Center in Bel Air to provide care for people dealing with addiction and mental health issues. The facility was recently named for them, as The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center.
“Those are the kinds of things that the independent pharmacies do, and we have a lot of good ones around [Harford] County,” said Henderson, who noted Boyd & Fulford is “one example of that [service], having been around 127 years.”