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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Doughty-Robinson Drug Company

Posted By on Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 2:14 PM

d920/1242155824-doughty-robinsondrugs.jpg These days, many companies prefer to carry generic names like Costco, Super D, and Rite-Aid, but for almost four decades, one of the largest drugstore chains in Memphis went by the somewhat dry name of Doughty-Robinson.

In 1923, two pharmacists — Lorenzo Doughty and Andrew Robinson — opened their brand-new “prescription druggists” firm at 1083 Union. Back in the days when the telephone company assigned prefixes to phone numbers (Mutual, Fairfax, etc.), that first drug store got an appropriate number: HEmlock-1482.

The chain flourished, and by the mid-1940s it had opened other branches on Union, Chelsea, Jefferson, Lamar, Madison, North Parkway, Poplar, and Summer. This photo, taken in 1943, shows the main branch on Union at Camilla. In addition to medicines and pharmaceuticals, patrons could also enjoy Coca-Colas, sodas, and lunches at the “luncheonette” and — judging from other signs in the windows — bring home Kodak film, Sealtest’s Clover Hill ice cream, Forest Hill milk, and Bexel Vitamin B complex. It’s hard to see on this grainy image, but a wall-mounted thermometer advertises the new Ex-Lax (“That Chocolate Laxative”), and a placard for movie star Barbara Stanwyck promoted the “Hollywood” line of hair products for something called “Good Looks / Good Health Week.”

By 1953, however, the busy store at 1083 Union was the only one remaining, and it closed the following year. Nowadays, almost all the former Doughty-Robinson Drug Store buildings, including the main branch here, have been torn down for parking lots or are standing empty. Only one location, at 1635 Union, is still being used as it was intended. Today, it houses Wiles-Smith Drug Store.

PHOTO COURTESY BENJAMIN HOOKS CENTRAL LIBRARY

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