Chestnut Pharmacy in Hampden closes

Chestnut AID Pharmacy, an institution in Hampden estimated to have been a drug store since at least 1918, is closing its doors today.

Two other pharmacies, Burke's in Reisterstown and Burke's in Parkville, also are closing.

It's not the economy, said Pat Burke, who owns all three and has owned Chestnut AID at the corner of Chestnut Avenue and 36th Street for more than 20 years.

"It's just time," said Burke, 47. "I'm tired."

He said it is hard to keep up with government and insurance regulations that change and get tougher every year, and that insurance companies are increasingly pushing customers toward mail order pharmacies or chains "that they're in bed with."

He's not selling the three stores because, "It's hard to sell independent drugstores, especially three."

The Hampden store's seven employees were still telling customers who walked in the door Tuesday.

"That's terrible," said Donna Bock, 66, of Hampden. "I've been coming here 40 years. It's old-timey. That's what I liked about it."

Asked where she would go now, she said, "RiteAid, I guess."

At least one employee, Calvin Sloats, 24, who has worked at Chestnut AID Pharmacy for nine years, got a job at the Rite-Aid store in the Rotunda shopping mall. His presence will make it easier for longtime Chestnut customers who go to Rite-Aid, Burke said.

But other employees don't yet have new jobs, including Amanda Harris, 28, who has worked there for three years and turns 29 Friday.

She said it isn't a good birthday present, "but it's life."

Gail Marshall, who has worked there at least 30 years, said she will "take time to smell the roses."

As for Burke, he's going to work for Rite-Aid in Reisterstown.

Burke said he doesn't know what plans the owner of the building, Ronald Lubman, has for it.

The building was a grocery store in 1910, and sometime thereafter, around 1918, became Tenant's Rexall, a drug store. In the 1960s, it became AID Drugs and Burke took it over in 1991, he said.

"Still the older families know it as AID Drugs," Burke said.

Amid the clutter of old prescription file drawers are an old shopping basket and apron that say, "AID Drugs."

Geno Carapico, 64, of Hampden, has been coming to the Hampden store for 25 years and buys lottery tickets every day, always playing the same numbers.

Harris, working the cash register and lottery machine, said she knows Carapico's lottery numbers by heart.

"I dream about those numbers," she said.

"It's sad, but it's the future," Carapico said of the store's last day.

"I'm going to miss you guys the most ," Harris said.

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