By Carol Tannenhauser

When we asked our readers to name a local business that would break their hearts if it closed, Joseph Pharmacy, on 72nd street between Broadway and West End Avenue, was mentioned most frequently – and fervently.

“For years, I’ve DEPENDED on Joseph’s to be there…” Louis Perry wrote. “I would be very sad if they went away,” added Jess. “Amen to that,” declared Diego. “They’ve never failed me!” Eileen avowed. “Best pharmacy in the city!” Bz asserted.

Sherif Eltahawy, the owner of Joseph Pharmacy.

Just to clarify: it’s Joseph Pharmacy, not Joseph’s, and it’s owned by a man named Sherif Eltahawy. Joseph was his father, a pharmacist in Egypt who moved his family to Queens in 1971, when Sherif was 12. Joseph opened a pharmacy, first, around the corner, then, across the street from where Joseph Pharmacy is located today. Sherif began working in his father’s store when he was 14, making deliveries. He went on to St. John’s University and College of Pharmacy and opened his own pharmacy in 1991, after his father died, naming it in his honor. “He was a dedicated pharmacist and a very good businessman,” Sherif said. “And he always did the right thing for customers. I try to follow him. We are dedicated to customer service.”

“These folks go out of their way to help you in any way they can,” Liz wrote. “Always available to answer questions. Really care about your health and well-being.”


For example, they do extensive insurance and medication counseling and, what Sherif called “adherence calling.” “Sometimes, people forget to refill their prescriptions,” he explained, “so we call them and ask them if they want us to fill it.” They also make personalized monthly blister packs, with all of a person’s medications sorted, sealed, and dated, day by day. There’s a $20 fee, which Sherif waives for those who cannot afford it. And they do “compounding,” which means making “custom” medications. “Different strengths that a doctor orders, but may not be available,” he explained, “or creams or liquids for people who cannot swallow tablets, or flavored medications for children.” Not only does this serve his customers, it generates additional income to help Joseph stay afloat.

A sample “blister pack” of personalized medication, via Sherif.

Speaking of floats – this is unconfirmed, but there’s a good chance Joseph has one, because Joseph appears to have almost everything (you’re still going to need a grocery store to survive.) A relatively nondescript storefront opens onto an array of brightly lit aisles, lined with neatly stocked shelves of…whatever you can think of – and lots of choices within that broad category. Sales people, some there for 20 years, are at the ready. It’s no wonder so many are enamored of Joseph Pharmacy – and they can take heart.

Sherif with a longtime customer.

“We’re here to survive,” Sherif said. “It’s very competitive and the rent is high and getting higher, but it can happen.”

Photos by Carol Tannenhauser.

West Side Rag is profiling small businesses, which are disappearing from the neighborhood at an alarming rate. Readers have sent in dozens of suggestions and we’ll be taking a look at several of them over the next few months. To read more in this series, click here.

If you have suggestions for other businesses we should profile, please email us.

Cash register photo by Franck Blais.

COLUMNS, HISTORY | 33 comments | permalink
    1. Lisa says:

      I only recently discovered Joseph when our veterinarian phoned in a compounding prescription for our cat! 🙂 I was amazed at how well stocked they are and what a wide variety of products they carry. I made a mental note to support them as much as possible. Every time I go in there it seems there are a number of people in there getting help at the pharmacy desk and it’s clear these are people that have been coming there for years.

    2. Cozmocharlie says:

      Sherif has been my pharmacist forever, it seems. I have 2 pharmacists as professionals in my family and know the value of having someone like him looking after me and my health. He is the best in the neighborhood and knows everone. Joseph Pharmacy is not just a great small neighborhood business, it is a lifeblood to many residents on the UWS, including me.

    3. Steph says:

      Love love love this store! Not just for prescriptions but for lots of other stuff too. I shop there as often as I can to make sure they stay in business.

    4. Scott says:

      My pharmacy since moving to the neighborhood 5 years ago. So happy to have found them.

    5. Susan M says:

      Joseph pharmacy is hands down the best in the neighborhood.
      My family and I moved to the West 80’s and I still use Joseph. We’ve been using this pharmcy for 15 years now. Sherif is amazing and is always available to answer any questions and concerns about my meds. He is a very special pharmacist and we should have more like him him around. Thank you Joseph for being such a wonderful old school pharmacy and for keeping us all healthy. Happy Holidays!

    6. janet Sullivan says:

      Joseph Pharmacy is the best neighborhood business in the area: consumer oriented, well stocked and very very friendly

    7. Diane says:

      I have live d around the corner from Joseph since 1973. But it wasn’t until my Dad moved into The Esplanade in 2002 that I began to use Joseph. Now, I wouldn’t know what to do without the team. Special shout out to Linda…ever sweet, super efficient…thank you Sherif for carrying on. The family business lives on the Upper West Side!

    8. Wijmlet says:

      Very good pharmacy and general store.

    9. Jodi says:

      I absolutely LOVE Joseph Pharmacy. I have never used the pharamacy itself, but it’s my “go-to” store for all other drugstore-type stuff and small household items. Every time I see it, even if I don’t go in that day, I get all happy that it’s still here and feel a little bit of pride that my purchases contribute, in however a small part, to its survival.

    10. Cheapo says:

      Joseph is worth checking out just for the bargain sales on household goods.

    11. manhattan mark says:

      Joseph is an iconic pharmacy…in this age of national chains
      it stands out as the “local” drug store we grew up with as did
      our parents and grandparents. The most important store in
      the neighborhood and they treat you like family. In the past few weeks they contacted senior citizen customers and helped them move to a less expensive Rx plan, saving them as much as $500 per year. A business run like this is what makes the Upper Westside a great place to live.

    12. Robert says:

      I must say… when I saw the photo of Sherif Eltahawy my heart sank because I thought it was going to be a story about Joseph’s closing, thank God it is not. Best place ever for many needs. The suppliment manager is so knowledgeable and they have such a great selection.

    13. Batya Lewton says:

      They are terrific.
      Shop there instead of at CVS or Duane Reade.

    14. Mark says:

      Here’s another shout out to the good people of Joseph Pharmacy.
      We’re very lucky to have an independent pharmacy staffed by smart, caring individuals in our neighborhood!

    15. m.pipik says:

      I love this place too. They know the meaning of customer service.
      Shout-outs to Richie and Linda.

    16. angeline says:

      Let’s support Joseph! We don’t use him for prescriptions but we will change. I’ve bought tons of kid-related stuff (toys, sippy cups) from him over the years.

      These days, docs are calling in prescriptions directly to pharmacist, so it’s imperative that you just make the call to your doctor to change pharmacist on record.

      Apthorp Pharmacy is great too.

      • Lin says:

        So is Chateau should you live closer to 69th and Amsterdam but I too love Joseph’s. I was also thrilled
        that this article isn’5 about them closing.

    17. Benet says:

      Started dealing with Joseph in 2001 when moving into the hood. They are extremely accommodating and after moving five blocks away closer to CVS,, I wouldn’t change Joseph as they are the best. The pharmacists and all the other employees go out of their way to be helpful.

    18. Laurel says:

      Love Joseph Pharmacy! They never let me down answering questions, keeping perfect records, calling doctors,
      delivering several times a day and having a knowledgeable and warm staff. Kiddos to Linda who’s just so nice and efficient. Even thinking of going to a large impersonal drug store makes me cranky.

    19. zeus says:

      I’ve been with them since they opened.
      Very nice staff. Helpful and kind.
      We will never be able to replace them in case they ever will close.
      I urge all who read this article and are not customers to go, see, buy and become one.

    20. Jen says:

      Amazing pharmacy and store. Incomparable customer service and selection.

    21. BZ says:

      Joseph Pharmacy is a gem!! Would never think of going anywhere else. So incredibly helpful and great at what they do..

    22. Kathleen says:

      I have been a customer of Joseph Pharmacy for the last couple of years, since I became eligible for Medicare and Joseph is a preferred pharmacy in my Rx drug plan. I was relieved to be staying with the same plan this year because otherwise I would have had to go to Duane Reade. Joseph provides the kind of personalized service with a smile we used to expect in most local establishments. I’m so glad they’ve been able to survive and am grateful to WSR for profiling them and, hopefully, helping to make it possible for them to continue to be here for us. I love having them here!

    23. Barry says:

      I’m thrilled to see Joseph Pharmacy recognized this way! I started using Joseph when my the prescription part of my insurance plan had some kind of issue with Duane Reade, about 7 years ago. By the time the insurance issue was resolved, I had become way too attached to Joseph to consider returning to Duane Reade — and I’ve never regretted that. The people at Joseph are consistently helpful and responsive, and make dealing with my prescriptions as easy as possible. A real neighborhood gem!

    24. EricaC says:

      Do any of you know whether they carry a full range of Parkinson’s and ADHD medicine? We have ended up at CVS because local pharmacies can’t seem to keep those in stock. I would love to switch back to a local pharmacist.

      • Ruth says:

        We have used and loved this store since the week they opened. I miss Rikki so much, am happy he is enjoying his retirement. Sharif is the best and Linda also. His staff is like family .
        speak to them and forget the large chains…whatever your needs are they will be able to fill them.

      • Lin says:

        Why not call and and ask them?

        • EricaC says:

          Fair question. Sometimes I just get tired of running through the list – but the bubble packages they create would be great for my mom, so I think I will.

    25. Priscilla says:

      So happy you highlighted Joseph. The customer service is unparalleled:, friendly, respectful and they work out insurance issues without you even knowing. Amazing amount of inventory, if you can’t find it just ask, it’s there somewhere. Good sales on vitamins and household products, too.

      An important part of the soul of NYC and the UWS.

    26. Anon says:

      We switched to Joseph Pharmacy 2 years ago after Duane Reade made a major mistake with one of my children’s medicines. The staff is absolutely the best. Very careful and caring. I wouldn’t switch to any other pharmacy.

    27. Eli's Mom says:

      Wonderful. They have a great “secret” collection of toys (meaning I had no clue they carried them). Household goods, ice cream, lots of special things you might not find at a chain. I love supporting small businesses! Keep it up, Joseph.

    28. Lois says:

      This pharmacy is great the attention they give is one of a kind😊. Lynda and Elizabeth are awesome.🙂

    29. Linda F says:

      I love Joseph Pharmacy. The people who work there are truly kind and compassionate when their customers are ill and need help. It’s a wonderful store too, and such a cut above the chain stores nearby. I was sad when these stores started coming in, but Joseph Pharmacy is so good; I’m sure it will hold its own! Thanks for all you do.