Want To Take A Trip To 1940s New York? Step Into Mishkin’s Drug Store

UPDATE: This is now gone.

Last week, I was scouting around 145th Street at night, which gave me the perfect opportunity to shoot one of my favorite neon signs in all its glory: Mishkin’s Drugs.

01

I love this sign. Part of it is its simplicity and compact dimensions; part of it is the perfect color combination of blue, red, and yellowy-orange. And “Mishkin’s” is such a great name.

02

Also, I love that they included “DRUGS” on the outer edge of the sign:

03

As I was taking pictures, it suddenly occurred to me – I’d never actually been in Mishkin’s.

04

According to the sign, Mishkin’s has been a drug store since 1890, making it a whopping 123 years old.

05

From the outside, there’s a ton of neat little details that take you back to the olden days of pharmacies. My favorite? The classic chopped-corner entrance with “Mishkin Drugs” written on the pole. You can practically feel the lingering spirits of kids from the 1950s rushing past to buy the latest issues of 10 cent comic books.

06

Then I stepped inside, and found myself transported back in time.

07a

For starters, the store is covered in wood-paneling, which screams its age at every turn.

07b

From medicines lining the wood shelving…

upload

…to the old drawers behind the counter…

10

…to the cardboard boxes stacked on shelves overhead, Mishkin’s might as well be a time machine.

08a

Best of all are the numerous wooden ladders lining the walls throughout the store, which slide along on little wheels:

11

Another ladder, hidden behind some shelves:

12

Seriously: stand in the middle and let the place wash over you, and it will suddenly feel like Humphrey Bogart might suddenly walk in and shake down the druggist for some information on a mysterious falcon statue.

07

According to the store’s website, Mishkin’s was started in 1890 by a Russian Jewish immigrant. Later, it appears that Mishkin’s became a New York chain, with a location at 116 W 14th Street by 1964 and another on Columbus. A third Mishkin’s still exists in Brooklyn at Broadway & Kosciusko Street. The Mishkin’s at 145th was purchased by its current owners, Mr. & Mrs. Yoo, around 30 years ago.

Overhead, a classic tin ceiling:

20

Another great detail: this ancient light-up “Medicines” sign. One can only guess how many decades ago this was last functioning:

21

Also hanging from the ceiling, a vintage sign for S&H Green Stamps, which shoppers once collected from stores and gas stations and could trade in for products from the S&H catalog. Green Stamps were in use from the 1930s through the 1980s.

update

Another feature not to be missed is the wonderful hex-tile floor, featuring a colorful pattern that zig-zags around the store:

13

Here, it continues on the other side:

15

There’s an insignia in the dead-center, sadly obscured by this shelving unit. Maybe a pharmacy logo of some kind?

14

But if there’s one element that’ll immediately drop you into The Big Sleep, it’s the pair of telephone booths at the front:

17

Complete with light-up signs and working doors, it doesn’t get much more classic than this:

18

Alas, the phones are now gone. Blame the phone company, who gutted them in the 90s.

19

There are even relics from more recent decades, such as this sign telling patrons that any product containing the artificial sweetener saccharin will soon bear a warning label. Such signs were distributed in 1978 when saccharin was found to cause cancer in lab rats (later to be reversed in 2000):

21a

One last little bit I only noticed when going through my pictures later at home…

22b

A stenciled “Mishkin’s Drug Store” sign over the entrance, now obscured from the outside by a rollgate. You’ve seen this in old movies – this is the real deal:

22a

When people think of New York’s classic pharmacies, the Kiehl’s stores, founded in 1851, are usually the first to come to mind. But what I love about Mishkin is that it’s managed to survive without feeling like a museum piece, or worse, a historical gem repurposed with hollow modern flare and minus the wear and tear of decades that is its soul.

In other words, take this scene: an old wooden ladder on wheels. A stooped-over hulk of a radiator. A rusting stamp machine. A dirty white-tiled floor. This shouldn’t exist in the 21st century, save for some nostalgic store recreation.

ladder

Except, somehow, it does exist: at Mishkin’s.

-SCOUT

If you enjoyed reading this post, would you consider making a donation to help me make my first movie? Just $5 or $10 can make a difference - AND you get this snazzy Scouting NY sticker/magnet as a Thank-You gift! Click here to donate today!

try4

And hey, if you've made it this far, why not follow us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr?

21 comments

  1. Thank you for capturing these photos. A friend forwarded the link to me. You made my day! I am going to check with the family if they know about this store and the owners.

    Keith Mishkin

  2. Beautiful. So much personality and character and craftsmanship. Thank you for sharing your photos.

  3. re: floor mosaic centerpiece: a Caduceus?

    ed

  4. That. Is. Awesome. I love everything about that place. I’m so glad when you bring these little treasures to light.

  5. Great find, when I was a teenager in the late 80’s early 90’s I worked in a mom & pop pharmacy for five years that looks like it never left the 1960’s. It had the same stamp machine and old scale that you can put a nickle in, the neon sign, worn out tile floor. I love the “chopped corner” entrance on this store.

  6. I’m sure you’ve seen C. O. Bigelow on 6th between 8th and 9th. Similar deal, but and older building. the company dates to the 1830’s, but I haven’t taken the time to find out how old the building is.
    The drug store that used to be on 9th and 42nd was a similar deal. Luckily eminent domain and associated forces wiped that out and replaced with an ugly brick apartment building and a TD Bank. Yay! progress.

    • I thought of Bigelow’s immediately! It’s got a great tile floor, especially just inside the front door. But it doesn’t have the seedy, almost attenuated look of Mishkin’s–what a treat!

  7. Thank you for taking me inside…have driven past the store many times and noticed the sign and date..and wondered what it was like.

  8. This is awesome – the type of Retro Roadmap type of place I’d feared had disappeared from NYC completely! I’ll be sharing your link with my readers, thanks for the tip!

  9. I love it! The juxtaposition of modern-packaged products and old style makes me laugh. I also love that the most recent owners seem to have not made a single modification since it was purchased (i.e. taking down the warning signs).

  10. Grand stuff. Remember that Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll was machinegunned in a phone booth in a drug store.

  11. I absolutely adored looking through these photos, thanks for sharing! Interestingly the first thing I noticed was the magnigicent tiling on the floors, the old radiator, the wood paneling, and the old lettering on the windows. My eyes are always drawn to the details and architecture of places, and I delight in knowing that someone else notices the same things as do I!

  12. Great pictures! The inside reminds me a bit of my local pharmacy, Rubino Pharmacy in Brooklyn. They also have an old phone booth in there and vintage wallpaper on the walls.

  13. J Leon Lascoff & Son was another great spot that had tons of history up on 82nd and Lexington.

  14. Scout, thanks as always for a trip to the past – to multiple pasts actually, as one was layered on top of another and another and another.

    The tile floor is frustrating and tantalizing. There are a lot of places like that, that were built when decorative tile floors were fashionable, but later the set up needed to change. The National Museum of Ireland is like that in Dublin, with this incredible tile work representing the zodiac, but current exhibitions cover much of it. The same in the Brooklyn Museum, you can see the footprint of past configurations but now they are all chopped up. It would be so cool to see the original work, but I guess we should be happy we can see little snippets. They could have ripped it up entirely.

    Great post, thanks!

  15. Once again, great work! As soon as I saw that floor, I was taken back in time to Jephson’s Pharmacy in Coral Gables, Florida, which existed when I was very young. Same sort of vibe. Jephson’s no longer exists, of course, and hasn’t for decades.

  16. MelindaWeissman

    Please let me know if you have any info on rosenzweigs pharmacy on corner ofst Felix st and Fulton st thank you wantxj8@ aol.com

  17. MelindaWeissman

    Please let me know if you have any info on rosenzweigs pharmacy on corner o st Felix st and Fulton st thank you wantxj8@ aol.com

  18. Anthony Pascarella

    As a long island railroad engineer im telling you to please check out the old Woodhaven Station in the atlantic tunnels complete with old cold war rations labeled as “complex carbohydrates” and other goodies. A step into the past and its passed by every day.

  19. Thanks for documenting this place! I was sad to see about a week ago they gutted the entire interior and are installing cheap new cabinets and a cheap dropped ACT ceiling. Such a shame.

  20. Not only did they gut the inside, they took down the old fashioned gates and exterior signage. Only the high level neon sign remains from the original store. Not sure of it’s functioning status

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>