The Beloved New York Drugstore Where Local Artists Get a Discount


In SoHo, Thompson Chemists has served a loyal clientele of artists and musicians for 25 years, becoming much more than a pharmacy.

Twice a month, usually on a Wednesday, there’s bluegrass music at my drugstore. At Thompson Chemists, around 7:00 in the evening, Sheriff Bob Seidenberg — musician and record producer — and his band set up alongside the Advil, Pepto-Bismol, Italian toothpaste and French shampoo. The quartet swings on “Me and Bobby McGee.” Dozens of locals crowd in, and there’s plenty of foot tapping and some baby bouncing.

This has been SoHo’s drugstore for 25 years, or its“alchemists”as the owners, Gary and Jolie Aloney, prefer to call it. And it ismagic, a quintessential New York neighborhood drugstore. On hot days, Jolie gives the FedEx guy a cold Coke. Rego, the large Aloney mutt, lies around on the floor, desirous of attention.

“I come for the atmosphere,” says the customer Linda Milhorne, who goes by “Squirrelly.” A pretty, fine-boned blonde who works in marketing and high-end design resale, she’s been a regular at Thompson Chemists since she arrived in SoHo 20 years ago. It puts her in mind of her small-town childhood — she’s from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. “I come for toothpaste, for prescriptions, I come to cry, to laugh, for a glass of champagne. They’re like family,” she says.

One Saturday morning, Marvin Gaye doing “Grapevine” is on the sound system and four or five regulars are kibitzing with Jolie, who rules the cosmetics, gifts, face creams and cannabis-infused salves she swears by. Chad Sipkin, who has a film editing company nearby, picks up his prescription from Gary, and says, “I love that it’s the two of them running a pharmacy. There’s good music, opinions on products. It feels like old SoHo.”

Suspended above the counter is a sculpture, a couple of papier-mâché puppets of Gary and Jolie made by their friend, the late artist Ed Fenner. Paintings by neighbors are propped all over the place, including one in orange by Susan Strauss who lives next door and was the store’s first customer. There are soy-wax candles that Gary makes in his home kitchen in Battery Park City; my favorite — cedar, pine and vanilla — is “Sweet ‘N Downtown.”

(read the full article at the New York Times: T Magazine)

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