BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
The owner of Barker’s pharmacy on Love Lane in Mattituck has sold his
business to CVS. Barry Barth, a Riverhead pharmacist and owner of the
building, said he will reclaim the space as Barth’s of Mattituck.
Above, a misspelled CVS sign at Barker’s directs customers to its
‘Maine’ Road store, which Mr. Barth pointed to as proof that big chains
don’t know their communities.
Barry Barth said he couldn’t bear the thought of another small pharmacy falling into the hands of a big box store.
That’s why he decided to take over the space and open his own drugstore after the owner of Barker’s Pharmacy on Love Lane in Mattituck decided to sell to CVS.
“To see another one fall into the hands of CVS, it’s very painful,” said Mr. Barth, a pharmacist whose family has owned Barth’s Drugstore on Main Street in Riverhead since 1912. He owns the Love Lane building and formerly operated the pharmacy there. He will call the new pharmacy, due to open sometime this summer, Barth’s of Mattituck.
Barker’s proprietor, pharmacist Demetrios Michaelides — who also ran a gift shop called the North Fork’s Little Secret in the same space — is now employed up the highway at CVS while his wife Fontiene keeps the gift shop going for a while.
Mr. Barth said that there are restrictions in Mr. Michaelides’ contract that prohibit the store from being run as anything other than a pharmacy. Once it closes, the gift shop will not reopen at another North Fork location. The Michaelideses will continue to run a gift shop they have on Montauk Highway in Eastport called Eastport’s Little Secret.
Ms. Michaelides said she and her husband had tried to make the pharmacy work but the economy made it difficult. The only thing keeping them afloat was the earrings, coffee mugs and picture frames sold out of the gift shop area in front of the store, she said.
Insurance companies reducing prescription reimbursement rates, mail-order prescriptions and a CVS and Rite Aid down the street made paying the pharmacy’s bills nearly impossible, Ms. Michaelides said.
Her family put their hearts and souls into the pharmacy, she added. Her three daughters, whose pictures are taped to the now-empty pharmacy counter, would color quietly in the shop’s basement as their parents worked.
“We would have loved to have kept it there,” Ms. Michaelides said of the pharmacy while choking back tears. “It just didn’t work.”
She said that she and her husband offered to sell the business to Mr. Barth before approaching CVS, but that he had made no monetary offer for it. As a result, the name Barker’s Pharmacy is history.
Mr. Barth ran Barker’s from 1989 until 2002, when he sold his share of the business — but not the real estate — to Raymond Gurriere; they, in turn, later sold the business to the Michaelideses.
Chain pharmacies do not know their communities the way a local pharmacist does, Mr. Barth said. He pointed out a sign, printed on CVS letterhead, on the Love Lane store’s front door that indicates the pharmacy has moved, and that patrons can fill their prescriptions at CVS on “Maine” Road in Mattituck, obviously referring to Main Road.
“Either they don’t know where they are or they don’t know how to spell,” he said.
Agnes Burkhardt, a senior citizen from New Suffolk, said she was sad to see the Michaelides family move because she fears she’ll no longer get the personal attention she needs with her medications.
“It’s the best drugstore in the whole Suffolk County,” she said while perusing the gift shop. Now “I’m going to CVS, but not by choice.”
Despite the bad economy and competition from CVS and Rite Aid, Mr. Barth, citing his experience in the business and the fact that he owns the building outright, said he’s confident that a pharmacy can thrive in that location. “I’m really committed to doing this,” he said.