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.
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.
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.
“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.